In 2009, our CEO Sophi Tranchell was in Ghana to join Kuapa Kokoo for its 15th delegates conference, followed by its Annual General Meeting (AGM) on the grounds of Knust University in Kumasi. Around 3,000 delegates gathered from Kuapa’s 1,300 village societies, making the journey from across Ghana’s cocoa growing regions. Men and women (some with their children in tow) were gloriously dressed in Kuapa’s ceremonial cloth, cut to every shape and size you can imagine, creating a real spirit of celebration. Read on to learn more about Sophi’s experience, written in her own words.
The AGM is always an occasion to meet up with old friends. I travelled to the event with Seth Gogoe from Twin. Ernest Adzim from FLO was in attendance with Emilie Persson, a Swedish intern and Divine supporter. Cord Budde, the owner of the factory that makes Divine, was also there.
The delegate conference broke into three groups: one was to look at the proposed Fairtrade premium Projects, one to review Kuapa’s policy on child labour, and one to discuss the final amendments to the new constitution.
The seriousness and patience of all the delegates despite the heat and the complexity of the discussions was impressive. This was the culmination of months of consultation.
There was a lot of debate in English and Twi (a local language), and when people returned for the plenary, there was a sense of a job well done and the right decision being taken. The evening ended with a song and a prayer.
The next morning, the AGM was opened by the President, Mr. PK Buah, dressed in ceremonial white and black Kente cloth. He presented Mr. Aduse Puko, the New Managing Director of the trading company, and Mr. Arthur, the new Chief Officer of the Union.
The delegates listened attentively and voted. In good Kuapa tradition, there was music and dancing to break up the business. I reported on how Divine had performed over the last year in the UK and the USA, and I welcomed the work Kuapa had done on the constitution. Regina translated my speech and Comfort Kumeah stood with me in support.
Divine received a commendation from the President for all the work we had done over the last 10 years. A commendation was also given to Francis who has worked as a driver for Kuapa since 1993. He had become the chief driver and was now retiring after 15 years of service.
The membership agreed to the new constitution and the Fairtrade Premium Project plans and accepted the annual reports. The Managing Director announced the payment of the Government bonus to great applause, and the AGM voted to invest a large proportion of the £33,602 ($43,486) dividend from Divine Chocolate into its Divine USA business.
Awards were given for the most productive societies in each area, and they included machetes and spraying equipment. There was also an award given to a disabled farmer who had managed to get his society to deliver 2,000 bags of cocoa. He was awarded a motorised quad bike, and I handed over the key.
A doctor made a long speech about the importance of health and hygiene, emphasising how important it was for people to take medical advice from a properly qualified doctor and then to take any medicine as prescribed.
The AGM closed with another song and prayer, and members began their long, hot trek home until next year.
One another experience we had while in Ghana was that we visited Bipoa, one of the original Kuapa Kokoo village societies.
Kyei Kingsley, the Kuapa Kokoo Recorder for the village, welcomed us. He showed us his cocoa shed where a poster of Divine’s Annual Report had pride of place on the wall. Then, he took us to a farm so we could see how the new cocoa season was progressing. We saw him weighing and buying sacks of cocoa beans from farmer Issah Mohammed. Before we left the villages, we popped to the toilet block that had been built using Fairtrade premiums. I liked the ‘male’ and ‘female’ signs of people wearing Kuapa Kokoo papapaa* cloth.
*Papapaa is the motto for Kuapa Kokoo. In the local language of Twi, it means ‘best of the best,’ referring to the high quality of cocoa that Kuapa farmers produce.