SustainRCA, The Royal College of Art’s initiative to encourage sustainability through art and design, last week hosted an event introducing the Divine Chocolate farmers, Mary Appiah and Esther Ephraim, from Kuapa Kokoo in Ghana, who were in the UK for Fairtrade Fortnight.
Mary and Esther – who had arrived in the UK wrapped in fur coats, expecting our freezing temperatures – gave us an insight into their lives in tropical Ghana.
The talk was chaired by Tom Allen of Trading Visions, who oversees projects for small-scale producers from developing countries. The charity Trading Visions was established in 2003 to build on a long-standing Fairtrade education initiative undertaken in partnership between Divine Chocolate, Comic Relief and Kuapa Kokoo.
Kuapa Kokoo is a Fairtrade cooperative with an association of more than 65,000 cocoa farmers, about 1/3rd of whom are women. It was set up to develop fairer trading practices and represent the interests of their members. In 1998, the members of Kuapa Kokoo voted to establish their own Fairtrade chocolate company in the UK and Divine Chocolate was born.
The Divine Chocolate farmers own a 45% stake in the company and the remaining shares are owned by Twin Trading, a London based company which works with small Fairtrade producers around the world.
See the video below for a quick animated summary:
Kuapa Kokoo’s motto is “pa pa paa”, which means “best of the best” in the local Twi language. Cocoa production is a skill learnt over generations. The farmer cuts down the pods, avoiding damage to the rest of the tree. The pods are then broken open to reveal the beans, which go through two processes, fermenting, to develop their flavour, and then drying. The cocoa beans are then transported to warehouses and sold.
See the video below for a brief overview of cocoa bean production:
Lives have changed enormously since becoming Fairtrade. Over the years this co-operative model has enabled them to build schools, dig wells and have clean drinking water, as well as giving every member a say in their own development.
“You must buy more chocolate from us” enthused Mary. “This makes such a difference. Being part of this cooperative has changed the lives of the whole community”.
The evening’s discussions also featured Andrew Stordy, an RCA graduate, who talked to us about a related topic – coffee – and his company Ikawa.
Ikawa means coffee in Burundi, East Africa. The project was conceived whilst Andrew was an IDE (Innovation Design Engineering) student at the RCA and started with a journey following each step in the coffee supply chain, to see how improvements could be made. The story was documented in a short film, ‘The Trail of Coffee’. You can view the first part here (approximately 15 mins):
The project was developed within the InnovationRCA Incubator programme, through which graduate ventures are given specialist support to transform them into investible businesses.
Now Ikawa is formed of a large network of contributors worldwide. The resulting product is a micro coffee bean roaster, which improves quality and cuts cost by bringing digital precision and control to sample roasting.
Ikawa’s computerised “roasting profiles” can be emailed around the globe and repeated by other Ikawa machines. This makes it possible for growing organisations to taste their own coffee and helps to link the farmer directly with the coffee drinker.
Andrew grew up in coffee growing countries and saw first hand how coffee beans are grown by small farmers as “cash crops”, to pay for school and daily living. The beans go through a number of processes before being exported as green beans for roasting and grinding. For this, the farmer receives a small amount of remuneration.
The majority of coffee is traded in this way; it’s grown by farmers – then it’s exported to roasters and onto the retailers, who collectively take about 80% of the profit. With the Ikawa machine the aim is to get rid of the middle men and give more profit back to the farmers. Ultimately Ikawa also hope to import the coffee beans too and sell these directly to the consumer to roast.