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26 August 2021

The Beginnings and Structure of Kuapa Kokoo

In order to combat the threat of the farmers losing out during the liberalisation of the cocoa market in 1993, a group of cocoa farmers including a visionary farmer representative on the Ghana Cocoa Board, Nana Frimpong Abrebrese came together to form a co-operative that would collect and sell its own cocoa for the member farmers' own benefit.

Kuapa Kokoo today

Kuapa Kokoo – which translates as “Good cocoa farmer” – was first established in Ghana back in 1993 when, for the first time, it was possible to set up your own cocoa buying company in Ghana. A group of cocoa farmers saw the opportunity to set up a buying company run by farmers for farmers.

From the beginning Kuapa Kokoo was established around Fairtrade standards with the farmer members’ welfare at its heart, and quickly built a reputation for producing high quality cocoa, and running a professional efficient business. In 1997 the farmers (one man and one woman from every village) voted at their AGM to set up their own chocolate company in order to get their own slice of the valuable chocolate market. The next year Divine Chocolate was born.

Growing a thriving, widely dispersed, co-operative has had many challenges but Kuapa Kokoo has worked hard to maintain its co-operative principles, and its priorities such as ensuring women are empowered and that children get a good education. With thousands of farmers in village societies spread over all the cocoa-growing regions of Ghana, training and educating farmers about cocoa quality, Fairtrade standards, health and safety presents a big logistical challenge but one which Kuapa Kokoo has managed well. There is an outreach team responsible for dissemination of news and latest updated techniques and farming practice, there are regular meetings at village, district, regional and national level, and the AGM, all of which aim to ensure views are heard, and Kuapa Kokoo’s principles are adhered to. Kuapa Kokoo has its own Child Labour Awareness Programme promotes its policy of not tolerating the worst forms of child labor, and ensuring all members understand how to make sure their children avoid any hazards on the farm, with emphasis on ensuring they go to school. Kuapa then works in partnership with local NGOs on monitoring and remediation.

Kuapa Kokoo farmers decide democratically how to invest the Fairtrade Premium, with priority given to access to clean water, education, healthcare and sanitation as well as individual bonuses. As a certified Fairtrade supplier, FLO (Fairtrade Labelling Organisation) ensures Kuapa Kokoo is independently audited every year to check standards are being met and the Premium is being invested appropriately. In addition, its ownership of Divine means that Kuapa Kokoo receive 44% of Divine’s distributed profit, and Divine directly invests 2% of its turnover in key Kuapa projects – for example adult literacy and numeracy classes for women, model farm programme, and Kuapa’s own radio show broadcast in series of eight weekly one hour programmes designed to inform a highly dispersed membership (with high levels of illiteracy) about the co-op and latest cocoa news, encourage response, and build pride in the organisation. To date Divine has invested over £2m in these Producer Support and Development programmes and projects.

Today Kuapa Kokoo has over 100,000 members and its growth is a testament to what farmers can achieve if they organise and have additional income to invest in their families, farms, communities and business. If they are sustainably remunerated, well-informed, and well-resourced they can tackle the problems inherent in cocoa farming themselves – which ultimately must be better than being policed by outside parties with vested interests. The Fairtrade standards Kuapa Kokoo has in place are independently audited every year ensuring continuous awareness of and adherence to them.

The foundations of Kuapa Kokoo

Supported by Twin and SNV, a Dutch NGO, the farmer's co-operative set up their own company to buy their cocoa and sell it on to the Government Cocoa Buying Board. The cocoa farmers' organisation was founded and named "Kuapa Kokoo" which in the local language, Twi, means "Good Cocoa Farmers Company". Their motto is "Pa Pa Paa" which means "the best of the best of the best".

The organisation is for farmers and set up by them with the mission to effect:

  • increased power and representation within the market for the farmers
  • social, economic and political empowerment
  • enhanced women's participation in all its affairs
  • environmentally sustainable production processes

Kuapa Kokoo consists of:

Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union

This is made up of village societies that elect society committees and representatives at regional level, who in turn elect representatives to the national Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union.

Kuapa Kokoo Limited

The trading arm of Kuapa Kokoo. The Trading Company Board is made up of four elected farmers representatives from the Union Council, one Managing Director and one external adviser. Kuapa Kokoo Limited buys the cocoa from the village societies and sells it to the Government buying company, Cocobod, on behalf of the farmers.

Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Trust

A separate but formally constituted institution that is responsible for distributing money for community projects, generated from the fair trade premium between the farmers. Communities submit proposals to the Trust Fund, for example income generating projects or social infrastructure projects. These are then voted on, based on the benefit to farmers. Some examples of community projects coming from the trust include piped water supplies to villages, public conveniences and gender relation projects.

Kuapa Kokoo Credit Union

Established in 2000 as the financial services arm of Kuapa, the credit union provides credit and banking services for the farmers. It also educates and encourages its members to cultivate a savings culture and promotes careful use of money.

Divine Chocolate

Marketing a range of premium chocolate made with traceable Kuapa Kokoo cocoa - in UK, USA and around the world

The Benefits of Joining Kuapa Kokoo

1. Kuapa's transparency and democratic nature

Member farmers are no longer cheated as they are by other cocoa buying companies. For example Kuapa Kokoo has a strong reputation for using accurate weighing scales and using scales that are understood by illiterate farmers. The farmers are encouraged to check the scales against things of a known weight. Kuapa has commissioned the production of "weight stone", equivalent to a full, single sack of cocoa which are carried in Kuapa Kokoo vehicles and operations staff carry out official random checks to ensure the village recorder is using accurate scales. Kuapa prides itself on its democratic nature and all decisions affecting the farmers are taken by elected representatives.

Elias Mohammed

2. Efficient operating practices

Kuapa has created operating methods which are extremely cost efficient, for example it trains its own members to carry out processes such as the weighing and bagging of the cocoa. Not only does this mean that the farmers benefit by learning additional skills but these internal efficiencies means that Kuapa can pay the farmers more per sack than other buying agents.

At the end of each year, the farmers are paid a cash bonus on a per sack basis. This comes from money gained from their efficient practices and the fact that all the profits are returned to the farmers themselves.

In 1996 it was decided that credit sales should be publicly recognised and promoted given their significant contribution to Kuapa Kokoo's financial performance. When Kuapa takes delivery of a farmer's cocoa, traditionally the farmer was paid immediately. This meant Kuapa had to borrow money, often with rates as high as 30%, to finance this until it received its own payment from the government monopoly buyer, Cocobod. Under the deferred payment system, if the farmer agrees to wait for payment until Kuapa is credited for the sale, Kuapa will pass on some of the money saved from the interest which would have been payable on the loan. Often whole villages will agree to defer payment, and so the entire community can benefit from this extra income.

Kuapa also buys items such as agricultural tools at bulk purchasing rates, again passing these savings onto the farmers.

Village societies that have performed particularly well, either on the basis of their operating practices or good management, are rewarded at the AGM with items such as machetes or gum boots for use by the whole village.

3. Improved Gender Relations

Gender awareness in Kuapa aims to enhance the active and effective participation of women in decision making throughout the organisation. Measures have been introduced to ensure that a minimum number of members of the various councils and committees are women. Over time this has ensured women have more influence and make more contributions to the organisation. In 2008 more women than men were voted onto the Kuapa National Executive, and women hold some of the most senior positions.

Further special seminars and workshops are organised for women on a wide range of issues, for example nutrition, child care, health and credit facilities.

Kuapa has also supported income generating activities to supplement their incomes and to make them less dependent on their men as well as provide money for the family during the off season whilst the cocoa is growing. For example they have set up a project making soap from the potash produced from burnt cocoa husks. This soap is then sold, generating additional income from the waste cocoa materials. They have also provided women with machines for cracking palm kernels for cooking oil, this is far faster than the traditional method of using stones to crack the kernels.

Assensua Women's Soap Project

4. Fairtrade

Kuapa Kokoo sell about 1000 tonnes of their yearly output to the European Fairtrade market. This means that, providing their production methods meet internationally audited conditions regarding, for example, minimum health and safety conditions and that the organisation is democratically run, the producers receive a guaranteed price for their goods and the security of long-term trading contracts. In the case of cocoa, prices on the world market price have in the past fallen as low as $1000. In comparison, on the fair trade market they receive $2000 per tonne (increasing to $2400 in October 2019), plus an extra $200 social premium (increasing to $240 in October 2019).

The first bar of Divine Chocolate

5. The Day Chocolate Company

Kuapa Kokoo decided that another way to increase profits from their cocoa, as well as their knowledge of the western chocolate market, was to produce their own, branded chocolate bar for sale in western markets. In October 1998 Twin Trading and Kuapa Kokoo came together, along with The Body Shop, and supported by Christian Aid and Comic Relief, to found The Day Chocolate Company. The company was named in memory of Richard Day, a key member of the Twin team that worked closely with Kuapa Kokoo and who sadly died before seeing the chocolate company coming to fruition. In January 2007, the Board made the decision to change the company name to Divine Chocolate Ltd, and in July 2006 The Body Shop handed their shares to Kuapa Kokoo, so the cooperative now owns nearly half of the company. Two elected farmer representatives sit on the board of Divine Chocolate Ltd and a board meeting is held in Ghana every year.

The company was formed to launch Divine Fairtrade milk chocolate, which is now available in supermarkets nationwide. As well as sharing in the profits, the farmers have a say in decisions about how the chocolate is produced and sold and increase their knowledge of the fiercely competitive European chocolate market.

Kuapa also sells to other fair trade buyers in Europe. The Body Shop buys cocoa butter made from Kuapa's cocoa and includes it in many of their shea butter products and Traidcraft also uses cocoa from Kuapa in some of their products.

6. The Credit Union

The Credit Union provides loans to members at competitive rates, as well as providing information and advice on savings and careful spending.

The proof of these benefits can be seen in the growth of the number of Kuapa Kokoo societies. Despite the process of joining being a lengthy and formalized process, there is a growing waiting list of villages wanting to join. Training is all done "in-house" and the company employs Research and Development Officers as part of its operations team to work with members at a village level supporting the education program and supervising elections.

You can find more information on the Kuapa Kokoo website

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