Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union
The members of Kuapa Kokoo are predominantly poor small-holders living in the most remote and under-resourced parts of the country. Many cocoa-growing villages do not have potable water, paved roads, health clinics, motorized transportation or electricity. Most villages lack basic schools, educational materials and teachers. Some farmers are able to grow plantain, coco yam, cassava and vegetables for home consumption, and plantain, oranges and palm fruits for sale at local markets. However, the soil on many cocoa farms is too poor to grow other crops so this cultivation incurs more costs and preparation. Apart from basic education, there are no free social services in Ghana. Farmers must pay for services like health care and secondary education.
In this context, Kuapa Kokoo represents a unique empowerment effort that enables small cocoa farmers to have a voice in cooperative governance and attain more information on their negotiations with cocoa buyers. Kuapa Kokoo is made up of an estimated 1,300 village societies that elect committees and representatives at a regional level, who in turn elect representatives to the National Union. This Union represents farmers’ interests to government and industry officials and reports valuable information back to its members.
Kuapa Kokoo has been Fair Trade Certified™ since 1996. Fair Trade is helping the cooperative develop a strong and democratic institutional framework. It is helping farmers, especially women, empower themselves, build confidence and independence, and ensure a sense of community participation and ownership. Kuapa Kokoo now owns about 45 percent of Divine Chocolate Ltd. and 33 percent of Divine Chocolate USA, Inc., which sell Fair Trade Certified Divine and Dubble chocolates in the UK and U.S. This unique venture allows Kuapa Kokoo’s members to increase their profits from the value-added sales of chocolate and enhance their knowledge of the western chocolate markets in which their beans end up.
We have taken our destiny into our own hands. Through Fair Trade and the cooperative, we have seen much progress. We have good drinking water, toilet facilities and schools. Kuapa Kokoo pays the farmers on time and there is no cheating when cocoa is weighed. We meet every two weeks to share our problems. We are able to generate extra income through our soap and palm oil production, which helps us through difficult months. We can also take out loans, individually or in groups, through the Kuapa Credit Union. ”
Before I was a member of Kuapa Kokoo, I was facing many problems – I had no money to feed my family or educate my children. I have been relieved of my problems…I was formerly a member of another cocoa-buying company, but I never had a voice. Now I can speak my views and people listen, and I have been made treasurer of my association. ”
Mary Nyamekye, Treasurer
Kuapa Kokoo ensures women have a voice and that we are heard. I have learned a lot from the cooperative. I have grown up with cocoa and I see many differences between Kuapa Kokoo and other buying companies. ”
Training sessions on the best agricultural practices, management and leadership techniques, and HIV/AIDS awareness were organized with Fair Trade premium funds.
The cooperative purchased new equipment, including scales, to reduce farmers’ dependency on using intermediaries’’ equipment, and this way provide more work opportunities for others, like women members. The cooperative trained members on world market prices and how to protect themselves from unfair traders.
Credit Union and Banking Services
Kuapa Kokoo formed a credit union so members could access credit, loans and other banking services.