Bitter Sweet History - aspects of the British Slave Trade

Fair Trade: Divine Chocolate Case Study

The amazing story of how small-scale cocoa growers in Ghana got to own a chocolate company in the UK…


Getting it together

Cocoa growers pooled resources to set up Kuapa Kokoo, a farmers' co-operative that would trade its own cocoa so it could get a better price on the market for the cocoa and could help them improve their lives.


At their 1997 meeting the farmers decided to create a chocolate bar of their own, and with support from Twin Trading, Comic Relief, the Body Shop and Christian Aid, they set up The Day Chocolate Company (now known as Divine Chocolate Limited).


Fair Trade means they are paid a price that covers the cost of producing the cocoa and have the security of a long term trading contract. For every tonne of cocoa sold they are paid $150, which is invested in community projects like water wells, education and health projects.


A first for fair trade

The fact that the farmers own a significant share of the company is a first in the fair trade world.  Kuapa Kokoo has a real say in how Divine is produced and sold, and shares in the profits.


Kuapa's motto is pa pa paa which means best of the best in their local language. You get the best of the best chocolate and the cocoa farmers get a fair and secure price for their crop.


Acknowledgement to Fairtrade Foundation (see Fair Trade website link below)


Now read Drissa’s story about being a slave growing cocoa on a plantation


When Drissa was a teenager, he decided to leave his village in Mali to look for work…


There were many boys Drissa’s age looking for jobs in and the around the village, and precious few jobs available. Although it was difficult to leave his family and friends, he decided it was worth it to try his luck elsewhere.


Drissa crossed the border into neighboring Cote d’Ivoire, where he heard there were many jobs available for people who did not mind working hard. He was pleased to be offered what sounded like a good job on a cocoa plantation. Drissa agreed on the payment and work arrangements, and then went with the employment recruiter to begin his new job. Drissa’s new job suddenly turned into a nightmare. He became a slave.

Drissa and 17 other boys and young men on the cocoa plantation were forced to spend long days tending the cocoa plants and collecting the pods. Besides the back-breaking work, the heat was oppressive, the biting flies constantly swarmed around them, and they had to watch for snakes in the undergrowth. The slaveholder gave them little to eat, and many times only cooked banana for months on end. Weak from hunger, they staggered under large sacks of cocoa pods. If they slowed in their work, they were beaten. At night the slaveholder locked them all into a small room with only a tin can to use as a toilet.


Drissa was trapped. He was more than 300 miles from home in a new country, far from any settlement, and he did not even know exactly where he was. One evening before being locked in, Drissa attempted to escape, but the slaveholder caught him and savagely beat him. He still has the scars from those beatings. The next day, Drissa was forced to work, even though the wounds from the beating were still raw. Drissa and the other slaves on that farm were eventually rescued by an official of the Mali government. After their rescue, Drissa and his friends were given medical care and a safe place to stay until they could return home.


Drissa’s story helped tell the world about slavery in the chocolate we eat. As a result, Free the Slaves and other human rights organizations helped convince the world’s chocolate companies to end slavery in cocoa production.


In 2001 an agreement was signed by the cocoa industry, human rights organisations and trade unions. But in July 2002 a report on Cote d’Ivoire claimed over 200,000 children were still working in hazardous conditions on cocoa farms. Safeguards are still being put into place to make sure our chocolate is free from forced labour.


We gratefully acknowledgement Free the Slaves (see website link below) for permission to reproduce this article.

Download the text from this page as a Word document - see Worksheet link below.

See where Drissa became a slave, in Cote d'Ivoire.»

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