Divine Chocolate releases impact report on its key cocoa sector support achievements

Fairtrade, B-Corp certified confectionery business Divine Chocolate has unveiled a fresh impact report revealing its key achievements of the past year, including supporting key West African cocoa-growing communities through innovative schemes, writes Neill Barston.

As the business revealed, it has continued to back farmers through investment in farmer-led initiatives in adult literacy and numeracy, labour rights, gender empowerment, and sustainable agricultural practices designed to empower workers and their families.

The business has worked with communities in a number of key sourcing locations including Ghana, the island nation of São Tomé and Príncipe, Sierre Leone and Malawi.

Notably, as the company explained, its model of operating is in collaboration with Kuapa Kokoo, a cocoa farmer co-operative that co-owns Divine Chocolate, with the firm stating is committed to leading a revolution that propels change along the cocoa supply chain, enabling farmers and their families to flourish while addressing issues ranging from child labor and gender inequality to deforestation.

Among the core areas of focus for the report  is a bid to advance its Farmer Community Programs: Designed and executed by farmers for farmers, enabling them to devise a wide range of schemes to develop sustainable livelihoods.

As part of this, in 2021, 246 learners were enrolled in the Adult Literacy and Numeracy Programme; nearly 70% were women; 597 tenancy agreements were signed to safeguard the rights of tenant farmers; 110 women in 20 communities were trained on sustainable farming practices resulting in 10,000 cocoa seedlings produced and 10,000 graftings carried out; and First profits from a new maize mill were disbursed to empower women and assist in diversifying income, enabling women to start small businesses.

Furthermore, Divine stated its  continued commitment to product excellence: In 2021, Divine’s Dark Chocolate Pink Himalayan Salt won a Great Taste Award from the Guild of Fine Food in the UK – testimony to the high quality and delicious taste of Divine chocolate.

Another notable factor previously reported by Confectionery Production is the company’s major recent brand relaunch to help drive change. Last year, the business  launched its bold new campaign, “Delicious Chocolate Fighting Exploitation.”

The move embodies the spirit of the company’s mission to give farmers an equitable share of the wealth they help to create, a voice in how things are run, and assurance that their needs will be met. Branding was also refreshed across the full product range to highlight best-in-class sustainable cocoa sourcing through Fairtrade, as well as Divine’s unique “Co-owned by cocoa farmers” business model. The campaign’s theme is carried out in social media and marketing as #JoinTheChocolateRevolution.

Moreover, there has also been progress with a new partnership with HALBA:, a leading producer of Swiss chocolate, to support sustainable livelihoods for Kuapa Kokoo farmers through a multi-stakeholder approach that promotes income diversification, climate resilience and biodiversity conservation.

The project supports dynamic agroforestry – a nature-based farming system that combines a variety of trees alongside cash crops, allowing farmers to grow diverse food staples like yams, maize, and cassava in addition to cash crops such as cocoa and bananas. Divine Chocolate will finance seeds of the annual crops for 120 farmers within 30 hectares designated for Dynamic Agroforestry.

Communities have also benefitted from a new partnership wit Grow Ahead (growahead.org), a nonprofit online lending and funding program that connects individuals and organisations directly to family farmer bodies. As a result, Divine Chocolate has pledged to plant 10,000 trees with Kuapa Kokoo in Ghana. The goal of this agroforestry project is to reforest cocoa farms and farmlands to create microclimates, reducing the impact of climate change on cocoa farmers and the cocoa industry.

Said Troy Pearley, Executive Vice President and General Manager, North America of Divine Chocolate, said:  “Climate change is significantly impacting the West African cocoa crop, which needs to grow in shade. By planting trees with our Kuapa Kokoo partners, we can help ensure this delicate crop continues to flourish and that the farmers and communities that grow cocoa can continue to thrive.” Divine will match up to $5,000 in donations with the goal of raising $10,000 to plant 10,000 trees. For more information and to donate, go to growahead.org/divinechocolate.

Fatima Ali, President, Kuapa Kokoo Farmers’ Union noted in the foreword to Divine’s impact report, that its members had a strong part to play in tackling major issues facing the industry, including pressing environmental concerns.

She said: “With the climate emergency increasingly apparent in Africa and around the world, we have a keen interest in supporting the fight against climate change. As cocoa farmers and members of our communities, as well as a marketing cooperative, we have witnessed first-hand the adverse impacts of climate change, evidenced by reduced crop productivity among our members.

“Production records suggest volumes have declined over the past five years. This is worrying for our farming communities and it should also be worrying for chocolate lovers world-wide. With the huge negative impacts emanating from the changing climate, we must take urgent action to reverse these effects and increase resilience.

“We are investing heavily in mitigation strategies to secure the sustainability of cocoa production for our cooperative societies. We are also taking strategic steps to increase resilience through climate-smart agricultural practices such as planting shade trees, cultivating cover crops, crop diversification, integrated pest management and enhancing off-farm livelihoods.

In the past year alone, we established cocoa and shade tree nurseries in 101 communities and supplied 647,200 improved cocoa seedlings and 160,000 shade and fruit trees to 1,641 farmers. We also trained 400 women in 24 communities in soap making, bread making, bee-keeping and rice production to diversify their income sources and increase resilience.”

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