Traditional cocoa cultivation can be detrimental to the environment; this is particularly true near the Kakum Conservation Area in Ghana, in the Guinean Forests of West Africa biodiversity hotspot, where 22,000 hectares, or 1.3 percent of the remaining forest cover, are lost annually due to unsustainable cocoa cultivation practices.
Kakum is home to about 550 species of butterflies, 250 species of birds, and about 100 species of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians, including the Vulnerable African elephant (Loxodonta africana)
and the Endangered diana monkey (Cercopithecus diana
Due to cocoa’s role as a commodity for people living near Kakum, sustainably managed shade-grown cocoa plantations can serve as buffer zones for protected areas and play a crucial role in conserving biodiversity in critical habitats, while also providing an important source of income to local communities.
In 1992, after government liberalization of cocoa marketing in Ghana, a group of dedicated cocoa farmers created Kuapa Kokoo, which in the local Twi language means “Good Cocoa Farmers Company.” The first Fairtrade cooperative in Ghana, Kuapa Kokoo applies sustainable cultivation methods such as biological pest control, replanting suitable tree species, and refraining from chemical spraying, all while growing high-quality cocoa.
Inspired by the work of the cooperative, The Body Shop and Twin Trading founded Day Chocolate Company with Kuapa Kokoo in the United Kingdom in 1998, in an attempt to market the first ever Fairtrade chocolate bar to the mass market. This innovative business model involved the participation of Kuapa Kokoo members as shareholders in Day Chocolate: a first for a Fairtrade organization.
Verde Ventures partnered with Day Chocolate in 2001 by providing investment financing to enable the company to purchase cocoa from Kuapa Kokoo. As one of the earliest investors in the company, Verde Ventures’ financing was a critical element in the growth of Day Chocolate, as well as in consolidating Kuapa Kokoo’s ability to get its cocoa to the foreign market.
Since its launch, Day Chocolate increased its sales in the United Kingdom by more than 2,000 percent. Kuapa Kokoo has received many illustrious visitors in Ghana, including Tony Blair, the U.K.’s former prime minister, and the rock band Coldplay. In addition, in 2006, The Body Shop donated its shares of Day Chocolate to Kuapa Kokoo, increasing the cooperative’s participation in the company and proving that this creative business model works and can benefit all those involved.
Building on its success in the United Kingdom, Day Chocolate, which changed its name to Divine Chocolate Limited in 2007, set up a subsidiary corporation to sell Divine in the United States in February 2007. Touring the east coast with company officials as well as Kuapa Kokoo farmers, Divine brought its message of fair trade practices working in harmony with environmental sustainability to a whole new audience.
To learn more about Divine Chocolate Limited, visit http://www.divinechocolate.com/