Divine News for Cocoa Farmers in Sierra Leone

Courtney Lang February 14, 2010
Cocoa Farmers from Kpeya Agricultural Enterprise Cooperative in Sierra Leone

Cocoa Farmers from Kpeya Agricultural Enterprise Cooperative in Sierra Leone

Divine Chocolate, the pioneering social enterprise co-owned by the Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Cooperative in Ghana, has announced that, for the first time, chocolate lovers can enjoy premium Fair Trade Certified cocoa from Sierra Leone in all of Divine’s chocolate delights. This exciting move is the result of many years of hard work by the cocoa farmers of Kuapa Kokoo, Twin, and Divine Chocolate and is a testament to Divine’s commitment to great chocolate and farmer advancement in the marketplace.

Sierra Leone was ravaged by a decade-long brutal civil war which ended eight years ago. Rebuilding has been difficult. This first Fair Trade shipment of cocoa out of the country is a sign of hope that the fortunes and prospects of the country’s farmers can be turned.

The first container of cocoa from Sierra Leone’s only Fair Trade Certified cooperative, Kpeya Agricultural Enterprise (KAE), was purchased by Divine Chocolate and is of the required quality to be included in the Divine recipe. Kuapa Kokoo, the Ghanaian co-operative that significantly owns Divine Chocolate, agreed to include this shipment in their brand as a sign of support for fellow cocoa farmers in Sierra Leone.

“The partnership between KAE, Divine, and Kuapa Kokoo is a shining example of the power of Divine’s farmer ownership model. Not only did Kuapa Kokoo offer technical support and advice alongside funding from Divine, they offered KAE a market for their product. Since Kuapa Kokoo profits from sales of their Divine branded chocolate the move makes financial sense as well.

Divine’s mission has always been to improve the livelihoods of West African farmers by pulling farmers higher up the value chain. We believe our mission and excellent chocolate is what keeps Divine fans coming back. With this cocoa from KAE we are extending our reach beyond Ghana and increasing our impact.” said Erin Gorman, Divine Chocolate’s CEO in the USA.

KAE is based in Kenema, 200 miles out of Freetown, and has over 1200 members and 50 village committees. It was first established in 1996, during the civil war, and its growth and achievements are in part the result of the determination, passion and tenacity of cocoa farmer Ibrahim Moseray – the organization’s general manager.

Ibrahim Moseray (left) and members of KAE

Ibrahim Moseray (left) and members of KAE

Against enormous odds, Moseray has convinced farmers of the benefits of being part of a cooperative with farmers’ welfare at its heart. With the help of Twin (the Fair Trade NGO behind Cafédirect, Divine Chocolate and Liberation Nuts), and other organizations such as the UN FAO and German Agro Action, KAE has trained farmers how to produce high quality cocoa, developed democratic structures, and learned how to export its own cocoa. Representatives from Kuapa Kokoo have come to Sierra Leone to share their expertise both in terms of running a cooperative and improving the quality of their cocoa. Exchange visits have also been arranged with KAE representatives visiting Kuapa Kokoo.

“I am a cocoa farmer myself and my mother and father before me. During the war I saw the struggle of my brothers and how we were cheated by traders, and I wanted to do something to make a better life for us. Kpeya means ‘Give Way’ in Mende – and we are asking the traders to ‘give way’ and let us farmers trade for ourselves”, says Moseray.

The challenges facing a fledgling cooperative are much greater in Sierra Leone than they were in Ghana when Kuapa Kokoo was first set up in 1993. The economy is liberalized, so anyone can trade cocoa, and there are many competitors wanting to buy farmers’ cocoa. Most farmers have little understanding of world market prices and often receive low prices for their cocoa. In Sierra Leone there is only one harvest, and the months in between are known as the Hunger Season. Cocoa farmers have become dependent on traders who buy their cocoa in advance in exchange for rice. The farmers are very conscious that the traders don’t have the farmers’ interests and welfare at heart – and this is why they have started joining KAE – an organization run by farmers for farmers. KAE has been offering a good price and other incentives, which other traders cannot match.

The new KAE office and store

The new KAE office and store

Traditionally, the cocoa exported from Sierra Leone has been of a low quality – intended for bulk use. The members of KAE have been learning how to improve the quality through more careful fermentation and drying, and how to do their own quality checks. As a result their cocoa is now good enough to be used for premium Divine Chocolate.

Kpeya has already helped its members with a number of initiatives – including building a school in Batiama village and arranging for a teacher to come every day (so their children no longer have to walk four miles to the nearest school), building a cocoa depot and food store, and coordinating Farmer Field Schools. The farmers agreed to spend their first Fair Trade premium on the buying of land for KAE to build its own HQ offices and store in Kenema.

To learn more about Divine Chocolate, please visit www.divinechocolateusa.com.

Some Sierra Leone statistics:

  • Population c 6.4 million
  • Second to last on World Development Index
  • A constitutional republic – current president is Ernest Bai Koroma
  • 70.2% of population living below poverty line
  • 282 of every 1000 children die before five years
  • National literacy rate 35.1%

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Courtney Lang, National Organizer | Fair Trade Campaigns

Courtney Lang brings over 5 years of community organizing to Fair Trade Towns USA, building both the Local Food and Fair Trade networks in Vermont. As Local Food Coordinator with City Market/Onion River Cooperative, Courtney worked with local producers, institutions and consumers to grow the local food system and organize a strategic model for community engagement through farm tours, workshops, and local food challenges. Like many in the Fair Trade industry, Courtney was inspired to take action in Fair Trade when she witnessed child-labor first hand in Costa Rica. As a founding member of Fair Trade Burlington, she has worked with economic development organizations, businesses, and consumers to build awareness of Fair Trade among Vermonters. She also worked with a Fair Trade USA licensee, Vermont Coffee Company, as Friend Ambassador where she united the story of Fair Trade to every purchase of coffee.