Gender Equality

Kuapa Kokoo is the cocoa farmers’ co-operative in Ghana which owns the biggest share in Divine Chocolate.

Divine has worked closely with Kuapa Kokoo to help the co-operative achieve its aspirations for its members.

Contributing to Kuapa’s steps towards gender equality is just one of the ways Divine has helped tell the farmers’ stories and invested in their future.

Ghana has a history of strong courageous women, exemplified by the Ashanti warrior queen Yaa Asantewaa who led the rebellion against the British in 1900 when she was 60. When you meet women in Ghana today there is no mistaking their strong spirit, but it has not translated into equality or influence – particularly among the poorest communities such as those growing one of Ghana’s biggest exports, cocoa.

The world depends on smallholder farmers, like the cocoa farmers of Ghana, for the majority of the food we eat. These farmers’ livelihoods are at the mercy of the markets, global corporate interests, the weather, and local conflict and politics. Women fare particularly badly – receiving even less benefit from their crops than men, despite often being the ones who ensure the quality and therefore the value of the produce.

So how has the Kuapa Kokoo farmers’ co-operative created an organisation where 35% of members are women, two women have been elected as President, and women hold leadership positions from village to national level?

This is the story of how Kuapa Kokoo has worked, with the support of Divine Chocolate and other partners, to give women their rightful place and voice in their organisation.

Kuppa Kokoo Papa Paa

A timeline

kuapa kokoo logo

Kuapa Kokoo in Ghana is the biggest cocoa farmers’ co-operative in the world.

Kuapa Kokoo, which means Good Cocoa Farmer, was set up to maximise the income and benefits farmers receive from the sale of their cocoa, with the proud motto “pa pa paa” or “best of the best”. When it was first established, Kuapa Kokoo Ltd was the only Licensed Buying Company owned by farmers – which is still true today. Kuapa Kokoo was supported by Twin and a number of other NGOs in its early years to help fund programmes whose aims are at the heart of Kuapa Kokoos’s mission, including gender equality. Kuapa Kokoo was built on democratic principles, and was Fairtrade certified from the start. It has been audited every year to ensure the co-op is meeting all Fairtrade standards and that the Fairtrade Premium is being used to directly improve the lives of members. It started with 2000 members from 22 villages, and has grown to over 85,000 members from 1257 villages, producing 7% of Ghana’s cocoa.

This timeline shows how Kuapa Kokoo has introduced initiatives to work towards gender equality, collaborating with partners including Divine Chocolate, to encourage, mentor and give women a voice, both in Ghana and on the world stage.

1993

  • Pauline Tiffen

    woman sitting on a metal staircase

    Pauline Tiffen (one of the team at NGO Twin who, with colleague Richard Day, helped establish Kuapa Kokoo) describes the early days of the co-operative:

    The initial idea of quotas, formally obliging women to be part of every committee and Board, including at least three women on committees, was based on discussions with Nana Frimpong (the founder of Kuapa Kokoo) and his wife Hannah. It was clear from the start that in Ghana women not only played key roles in production but also owned and ran cocoa farms.

  • Kuapa Kokoo founded

    Kuapa Kokoo PAPA PAA Logo

    Kuapa Kokoo  founded on Fairtrade principles - including addressing gender equality

  • Adinkras

    Divine packaging is decorated with traditional West African “Adinkra” symbols.

    Each one represents a distinct meaning that conveys traditional wisdom, aspects of life, or the environment.

1994

  • title

    First woman elected to Kuapa Kokoo National Executive Committee (NEC)

  • Pauline Tiffin

    From the first AGM in 1994, where there was a lot of debate, and a certain amount of chaos, it was women who spoke up and brought order. One woman clinched it, reminding men they had not had an opportunity like this before. No other Licensed Buying Companies had invited them to discuss the business and how to improve things for farmers.

  • SNV development partner

    SNV (“Stichting Nederlandse Vrijwilligers” - Foundation of Netherlands Volunteers), Twin's development partner operating in Ghana funds the creation of the first women's groups

  • Adinkras

    What does this symbol mean?

    Siamese Crocodile.

    Democracy & unity in diversity (you have to agree when you share the same stomach).

1996

  • Pauline Tiffin

    SNV was Twin's development partner in Ghana. They supported the process of forming Kuapa Kokoo and coaching several technically trained people offered as resource staff to Kuapa Kokoo. These people and their successors soon became responsible for gender work, led by SNV project leader Frema Osei Opare.

  • title

    Kuapa Kokoo women display the products they have made through skills training at the AGM for first time

  • title

    Women make up 26% of Kuapa Kokoo membership

  • Body Shop

    founder

    Anita Roddick

    Body Shop founder Anita Roddick visits Kuapa Kokoo and funds the building of a school in Bayerebon3

  • Adinkras

    What does this symbol mean?

    I Have Kept What I Have Heard

    Wisdom & Knowledge

1997

  • At the 1997 Kuapa Kokoo AGM

    smiling woman

    At the 1997 Kuapa Kokoo AGM the farmers vote to set up their own chocolate company

  • Adinkras

    What does this symbol mean?

    The Heart

    Patience & Harmony

1998

  • Kuapa Kokoo Gender programme

    Kuapa Kokoo gender programme established with the following objectives:

    • Enable women to take on more responsibility and leadership 
    • Stimulate business activities among Kuapa Kokoo women to increase their income
    • Generate employment for vulnerable groups
    • Encourage savings among women farmers
    • Demonstrate that women have 1998 the ability to use and repay credit
  • Anna Antwi

    smiling woman in pink holding a chocolate bar

    Anna Antwi recruited as the first Head of Development, funded by SNV

  • Divine chocolate bars

    display box of chocolate bars

    Divine Chocolate launched in UK

    Originally called The Day Chocolate Company, Divine was launched with the support of Twin, Body Shop, Christian Aid, Comic Relief and the UK Department for International Development

  • Adinkras

    a symbol

    What does this symbol mean?

    Thumb.

    Co-operation & teamwork.

2002

  • Monitoring Impact

    Monitoring Impact of Fairtrade Initiatives: A Case Study of Kuapa Kokoo and the Day Chocolate Company.
    Report forTwin by Loraine Ronchi

  • Feature appears in The Mirror

    Feature appears in The Mirror - "The women who have never tasted chocolate"

  • Comfort and Mary in the UK

    Comfort Kumeah and Mary Nyamekye travel to UK for Fairtrade Fortnight

    One of them appears on BBC Breakfast TV. From then on women farmers come to UK regularly for Fairtrade Fortnight, as ambassadors for Kuapa Kokoo and Divine. They grow in knowledge and confidence and many go on to become leaders in their communities

  • Story of cocoa farmer's daughter

    pages from Sugar magazine

    Story of cocoa farmer's daughter Rijiyatu Razak runs in Sugar magazine

  • Women Vision International

    Women Vision International (WVI), an organisation of business women based in Kansas, work with Kuapa Kokoo to set up a loan scheme specifically for women, which allows them to borrow without already having savings. WVI soon report that loans had been made to 504 women in 22 village societies.

  • Adinkras

    What does this symbol mean?

    Reconciliation Knot

    Reconciliation, pacification, peace & harmony.

2003

  • Harvest of Hoope

    Harvest of Hope: Life in the Kuapa Kokoo Cocoa Cooperative in Ghana. A photographic description of the life of a woman cocoa farmer and member of Kuapa Kokoo
    by Phil Grout

  • Comfort and Rijiyatu

    two smiling women holding chocolate bars

    Comfort Kwaasibea and Rijiyatu Razak come to UK for Fairtrade Fortnight

  • Adinkras

    What does this symbol mean?

    Go back to fetch it.

    Reversion, revival & learning from the past.

2004

  • Chains of Fortune

    Chains of Fortune: Linking Women Producers and Workers with Global Markets.
    Report edited by Marilyn Carr

  • Elizabeth and Georgina in the UK

    Two women holding a cake in front of two men

    Elizabeth Adjei and Georgina Kwaw visit UK for Fairtrade Fortnight.

    They speak at events in London and SW England, and meet Gordon Brown (then Chancellor)

  • Adinkras

    What does this symbol mean?

    The spider's web.

    Wisdom, ingenuity, creativity, craftiness & complexity.

2005

  • Anna and Veronica in the UK

    2 women and one man smiling

    Anna Awere and Veronica Mintah visit UK for Fairtrade Fortnight. They speak at County Hall and the Treasury, and at several London boroughs to support the campaign to make London a Fairtrade City

  • Adinkras

    What does this symbol mean?

    Chief of the Adinkra symbols

    Greatness, charisma & leadership.

2006

  • Comfort Kumeah

    woman speaking from behind a podium

    Comfort Kumeah elected General Secretary on the Kuapa Kokoo NEC and Christiana Ohene- Agyare elected Treasurer. More women than men on NEC

  • Comfort and Comfort

    2 smiling women showing Gordon Brown a blanket

    Comfort Kwaasibea and Comfort Asare-Kwabi travel around Scotland for Fairtrade Fortnight. They make a guest appearance at the Scottish National Parliament and meet with Gordon Brown

  • Divine features women in ads

    Divine advert poster featuring a woman in a blue dress

    Divine features women from Kuapa Kokoo in its advertising campaign - showing African women with attitude, subverting both chocolate and charity ads

  • Adinkras

    What does this symbol mean?

    The Big Okra

    Greatness, superior quality, wisdom

  • smiling woman

    Comfort Kumeah

    Mem Society

    If you had told me 12 years ago that one day I would hold one of the most senior positions in Kuapa I would have laughed! But here I am, the Secretary of the National Executive. What a great achievement and example for women.

2007

  • Divine commissions films

    girls and women in school

    Divine commissions films in Ghana to highlight benefits to Kuapa Kokoo members, including Kuapa Kokoo women farmers talking about women's empowerment, the impact of a new well in the village, and going to school

  • Comfort Kumeah Valentine's Day

    woman in front of George Washington statue in Washington DC

    Comfort Kumeah launches Divine Chocolate USA in Washington DC on St Valentine's Day

  • Christiana & Comfort

    Christiana Ohene-Agyare and Comfort Kwaasibea visit UK hosted by The Co-op.

  • Erica Kyere and Ed Miliband

    a woman and a man on a sofa

    Kuapa Kokoo staff member Erica Kyere meets Ed Miliband

  • Adinkras

    What does this symbol mean?

    Crocodile

    Adaptability (as they live in water & on land)

2008

  • Comfort Kumeah 10th Anniversary

    woman with a microphone with her arm in the air

    Comfort Kumeah comes to UK to celebrate Divine's 10th anniversary marked with a public exhibition in London

  • Adinkras

    What does this symbol mean?

    Life Giving Power of the Sun

    Vitality, renewal, growth, enlightenment, procreative energy

2009

  • The Role of Certification and Producer Support

    The Role of Certification and Producer Support in Promoting Gender Equality in Cocoa Production.
    Report funded by Utz, Solidaridad, Oxfam Novib

  • Kuapa Kokoo formalises Child Labour Awareness

    poster reminding to not use child labour

    Kuapa Kokoo formalises its Child Labour Awareness Programme

  • Adinkras

    What does this symbol mean?

    Twistings

    Balance in life, prudence, perserverance

2010

  • Kuapa Kokoo elects first woman President

    Man congratulating woman with a handshake

    Kuapa Kokoo elects its first woman President, Christiana Ohene-Agyare, who also joins the Divine Board. After the elections only 4.4% of the Society Presidents, and 2.7% of the Recorders are women. A Recorder is the person voted for by fellow Kuapa Kokoo members as the person most trusted to weigh the cocoa and pay the farmers correctly.

  • Sunday Times

    article from Sunday Times

    Comfort Kumeah profile in Sunday Times

  • Kojo and Comfort in the UK

    Comfort Kumeah and Kojo Aduhene-Tano come for Fairtrade Fortnight

  • Adinkras

    What does this symbol mean?

    The Earth Is Heavy

    Providence, procreation, sanctity of mother earth

  • woman in a print dress

    Elizabeth Antegoa

    Bipoah Society

    I joined Kuapa because I wanted to be part of the women’s group. We all join together and we help each other. Together we have learned skills like making soap and screenprinting – and this helps us earn our own money… I like the way women are encouraged in Kuapa Kokoo.

2011

  • Fatima and Harriet in the UK

    two women in Kuapa Kokoo outfits

    Fatima Ali and Harriet Boatemaa in UK for Fairtrade Fortnight and speak at WOW, the Women of the World summit

  • Kuapa Kokoo President meets Jimmy Carter

    woman and a man smiling into the camera

    Kuapa Kokoo President Christiana Ohene-Agyare meets former US President Jimmy Carter

  • Adinkras

    What does this symbol mean?

    Go Back To Fetch It

    Reversion, revival, learning from the past

  • woman in a peach colour dress

    Nare Penten

    Wassa Asikuna Society

    I joined Kuapa Kokoo because the policies are very good and it belongs to the farmers. Democracy has its own power – that’s why I wanted to join. Kuapa belongs to the farmers – the benefits come to the farmers. Benefits like bonus and cutlasses which help you with farming. Lots of people advise you and train you to get better productivity – and help prevent crop disease. And Kuapa helps us care for our children. Children are a Kuapa priority – we are advised to send our children to school and not to let our children do any hard labour.

2012

  • Cosmopolitan Cocoa Farmers:

    Cosmopolitan Cocoa Farmers: Refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate Advertisements.
    By Kirsty Leissle published in Journal of African Cultural Studies

  • Kuapa Kokoo mourns death of Christiana

    Kuapa Kokoo mourns the death of ChristianaOhene-Agyare. Fatima Ali becomes acting President and joins the Divine Board.

  • Elias and Agnes in the UK

    a man and two women display chocolate bars still in their moulds

    Agnes Armah and Elias Mohammed come to UK. Agnes speaks at the Co-operative conference in London

  • WIEGO 2012

    WIEGO (Women in Informal Employment Globalising and Organising) project commences to develop leadership and business skills amongst Kuapa Kokoo women members

  • Adinkras

    What does this symbol mean?

    Let Me Help You

    Co-operation & interdependence

  • Adinkras

    What does this symbol mean?

    Fern

    Endurance, perserverance, peaceful co-existence

  • two women displaying chocolate bars

    Lucy Manu (left)

    Ntinanko Society

    I joined Kuapa four years ago and was able to benefit from the farming training Kuapa runs. I trained for one year and have learned how to better manage my farm, and to increase my yield. I have doubled my output!

2013

  • Empowering Women

    Empowering Women Farmers in Agricultural Value Chains.
    Report by Twin

  • Gender Production Networks

    Gender Production Networks: Sustaining Cocoa-chocolate Sourcing in Ghana and India.
    By Stephanie Barrientos, University of Manchester

  • Inclusion of explicit commitment

    Inclusion of explicit commitment to gender equity in Kuapa Kokoo constitution. Gender committees created at district level to promote and monitor inclusion.

  • Fatima Ali

    woman with microphone addressing a room of people

    Fatima Ali reports on the gender programme at the AGM and announces partnership with WIEGO to build on women's empowerment

  • Esther and Mary in the UK

    two women from Kuapa Kokoo meet the Mayor of Haringey and his wife

    Esther Mintah Ephraim and Mary Appiah in UK for Fairtrade Fortnight. They speak at the WOW summit and visit Haringey Fairtrade borough

  • Kuapa Kokoo launches radio programme

    people listening to a radio

    Kuapa Kokoo launches its own radio programme, Kuapa Mmere, featuring weekly one-hour shows over six-week periods. Reaching, informing and motivating women are key objectives. Funded by Divine Producer Support & Development fund (PS&D)

  • Kuapa Kokoo Gender Study

    Kuapa Kokoo Gender Study part funded by Divine, managed by Twin with Kuapa Kokoo gender officer Monica Dadzie

  • Adinkras

    What does this symbol mean?

    Enclosed and Secured House

    Spiritual protection, social security, family solidarity

  • woman outside

    Akua Bemo

    Kokote Society

    My experience in the women’s group gave me the confidence to put myself forward for election. I felt that I had many supporters behind me; they said they would vote for me because they believed I was an honest person.

2014

  • Gender Action Learning

    Gender Action Learning for Sustainability at Scale (GALSatScale) - a community-led empowerment methodology that can be adapted to different cultural and organisational contexts.
    Developed by Linda Mayoux

  • Report on Gender Study

    Report on Gender Study highlights the variety of benefits of women's groups.

    Women with access to women's groups:

    • have higher non-cocoa income and greater control over household finances
    • own on average 2 more acres of land
    • are more likely to send their daughters to school

    The presence of women's groups: 

    • encourages leadership 
    • appears to create 'healthier' societies overall

    Recommendations include ensuring support is appropriate to women's circumstances and needs, encouragement of more women's groups, focus on increasing literacy and numeracy

  • After 2014 elections

    women making a screen print

    After the 2014 elections, 40% of all village-level leadership positions were held by women, including 12% of Presidents, 80% of Vice Presidents, 90% of Treasurers, 13% of secretaries and 5% of recorders. This is up from just 14% over all positions at the previous elections in 2010.

  • 2014 Elections

    Esther Mintah Ephraim's election flyer

    Fatima Ali is elected President of KKFU. Esther Mintah Ephraim voted onto NEC

  • Mercy and Mavis in the UK

    two women in front of the BBC building in London

    Mercy Zaah and Mavis Adu Gyamfi visit UK. Mavis speaks on BBC Radio 1xtra

  • I need a title

    Esther Mintah Ephraim travels to Australia and New Zealand to promote Fairtrade, Kuapa Kokoo and Divine Chocolate

  • Special bars

    special hazlenut chocolate bar

    Special bars in USA highlighting the womens project

  • Literacy and numeracy project

    adults in a classroom, learning

    Kuapa Kokoo collaborates with Ghana's Department of Non-Formal Education on a basic literacy and numeracy project, funded by Divine PS&D

  • woman sitting with her baby

    Linda Berchie

    Bassingele Society

    I am happy to be elected to the NEC – I like having a plan before we go out and talk to the farmers, and I am pleased to be part of the final decision making for the farmers. Because of Kuapa’s approach to gender I felt able to stand for a position, my exposure to the gender programme gave me confidence.

2015

  • Kuapa Kokoo Gender Strategy

    Kuapa Kokoo Gender Strategy presented by Monica Dadzie to the FAO conference on agricultural investment and gender in Accra. Since 2014 women now represent 35% of the Kuapa Kokoo membership

  • Mary Appiah New Zealand

    Mary Appiah visits Australia and New Zealand as ambassador for Kuapa Kokoo and Divine

  • Esther Mintah Ephraim

    woman sitting in front of a Divine banner

    Esther Mintah Ephraim joins Divine for Chocolate Week. She speaks at The Chocolate Show, and meets major customers

  • WIEGO 2015

    WIEGO reports that its three-year programme, building on the gender advocacy programme started by Kuapa Kokoo in 1998, has had significant impact. Positive effects include the growth of registered women's groups, more cocoa produced and sold by women, and a 140% increase in the number of women taking up positions within Societies

  • Adinkras

    What does this symbol mean?

    Wooden Comb

    Life, love, nurturing, caring & patience

  • woman outside

    Delphin Ocran

    Kofigyan Society

    As a female recorder I am able to buy more cocoa than men because people trust me. More women should have the courage to put themselves forward for these elected positions. If you are honest, have respect for your fellow members and can communicate effectively, people will believe and trust in you.

2016

  • Women’s Rights

    Women’s Rights in the Cocoa Sector: Examples of Good Practice.
    Oxfam discussion paper 2016

  • Promoting

    Promoting Gender Equality in the Cocoa-Chocolate Value Chain: Opportunities and Challenges in Ghana.
    Stephanie Barrientos

  • UN Sustainable Development

    gender equality symbol

    In the coming years, gender equality is just one of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals Kuapa Kokoo will be striving to achieve

  • Mabel Tagoe

    Mabel Tagoe represents Kuapa Kokoo at FAO event in Rome to promote inclusive coffee and cocoa value chains

  • The pilot adult literacy programme

    group of people in team formation smiling for the camera

    The pilot adult literacy and numeracy programme funded by Divine, initiated to address the key barrier to women's empowerment, draws to a successful close. Wider rollout is planned in 2017 following an evaluation

  • Adinkras

    What does this symbol mean?

    Cosmic Energy of the Sun

    Vitality, renewal, growth, enlightenment, procreative energy

  • Margret Fianko

    Aduyaakrom Society

    The best thing about being a Kuapa member is that they assist women a lot. Before the adult literacy course I couldn't do anything; I couldn't read and couldn't write. But now I can recognise letters and read.

2017

  • A limited edition wrapper

    bar of Divine dark chocolate on a pile of beans

    A limited edition wrapper is rolled out on the best-selling 70% dark chocolate bar, selling to all stockists in the UK and export customers. The bar highlights the work Divine has done in partnership with Kuapa Kokoo to empower women cocoa farmers.

  • What is it about Women and Chocolate?

    What is it about Women and Chocolate?

    Divine launches report “Empowering the women cocoa farmers of Kuapa Kokoo” at briefing at the Lansdowne Club in London in March 2017, with Kuapa Kokoo farmers Linda Berchie and Victoria Boakyewaa speaking at the event.

    Resources from the event

  • Adinkras

    What does this symbol mean?

    Ram's Horn

    Humility & strength

  • smiling woman in front of foliage

    Mavis Adu Gyamfi

    Sefwi-Akotombra Society

    As soon as I joined I was trained to improve my farming skills - how to produce pa pa paa cocoa and to improve my yields. As a result I have doubled my yield and can now produce 40 sacks of cocoa from my 6 acre farm, whereas before it was 20. Then I put myself up for election. The other farmers could see I was well educated and was good with figures, and they trusted me, a young woman, to be a good Recorder.

2018

  • Divine Women's Bar 2018

    Divine Dark Hazelnut is the new Empowering Women bar for 2018. Enjoy the smooth combination of deliciously dark chocolate with hazelnut praline for a luxurious melt-in-your-mouth experience with a subtle nutty finish. This bar also highlights the important work by Divine and Kuapa to empower women cocoa farmers, who are vital to producing 'pa pa paa' (best of the best) cocoa.

    Buy the new Divine Women's Bar

THE FUTURE

Divine believes in gender equality and empowering farmers and chocolate lovers alike, so that chocolate has a sustainable future for everyone.

Working to achieve empowerment and equal rights for women is one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. To help meet this goal it would be good to see all companies putting women on their Boards, and all sustainability projects delivering equally for both men and women farmers.

Chocolate lovers can help support this goal by choosing Divine, and buying from other companies who are actively making sure women in their supply chains are empowered to help themselves, their families and their communities. If you want to get more involved you can:

Share this website with your networks.

Follow and share Divine’s #DivineWomen hashtag on Twitter

Follow Divine’s partners Twin and Oikocredit