The Beginnings and Structure of Kuapa Kokoo
POSTED 1st July 2019
In order to combat the threat of the farmers losing out during the liberalization 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 from the native Ghanaian language, Twi, to “Good Cocoa Farmer” – was first established in Ghana back in 1993 when it was first possible to set up a 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. Kuapa quickly built a reputation for producing high-quality cocoa and running a professional, efficient business. In 1997, one male and one female farmer from every village voted at their AGM (Annual General Meeting) to set up their own chocolate company in order to get their own slice of the valuable chocolate market. By the next year, Divine Chocolate was born.

Growing a thriving, widely dispersed, co-operative has had many challenges. Kuapa Kokoo has worked hard to maintain its co-operative principles and priorities such as ensuring women are empowered and 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, and health and safety practices presents a big logistical challenge which Kuapa Kokoo has excelled at managing. They have set up an outreach team which is responsible for the dissemination of news and the latest techniques and farming practices which are heard at regular meetings at village, district, regional and national level as well as the AGM in order to consider feedback from all members and to make sure Kuapa Kokoo’s principles are adhered to. Today, Kuapa Kokoo farmers democratically decide how to invest the Fairtrade Premium, with priority given to access to clean water, education, healthcare and sanitation, as well as individual bonuses.

IMAGE 3 Voting at the Kuapa Kokoo AGM KR

Kuapa Kokoo’s ownership of Divine means that farmers receive 44% of Divine’s distributed profit and 2% of its total annual sales in key Kuapa projects. The projects include adult literacy and numeracy classes for women, model farm program, and Kuapa’s own radio show broadcast which is designed to inform a dispersed membership with high levels of illiteracy about the co-op and latest cocoa news, encourage response, and build pride in the organization. To date Divine has invested over $2m in these Producer Support and Development programs and projects. Additionally, one of the programs Kuapa Kokoo is deeply committed to is its own Child Labor Awareness Program which promotes guarding against the worst forms of child labor and ensures all members understand how to make sure their children avoid any hazards on the farm, with an emphasis on ensuring they go to school. Kuapa then works in partnership with local NGOs on monitoring and remediating any of those harmful child labor practices

With over 85,000 members, Kuapa Kokoo’s growth is a testament to what farmers can achieve if they organize. If farmers are sustainably paid, well-informed, and well-resourced they can tackle the problems inherent in cocoa farming themselves – which ultimately leads to better outcomes than being policed by outside parties with vested interests. As a certified Fairtrade supplier, FLO (Fairtrade Labeling Organization) ensures Kuapa Kokoo is independently audited every year to check standards are being met and the Fairtrade Premium is being invested appropriately.

Kuapa Kokoo 25th Anniversary
© Kuapa Kokoo

The Foundations of Kuapa Kokoo

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

The farmers set up their co-operative 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 can submit proposals such as income-generating projects or social infrastructure projects to the Trust. These are then voted on with decision 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 Kokoo, the credit union provides credit and banking services for the farmers while educating and encouraging its members to cultivate a savings culture and promote careful use of money.

Divine Chocolate

The chocolate company which Kuapa Kokoo started and own a large percentage of. They market 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 by other cocoa buying companies. Kuapa Kokoo has developed a strong reputation for using accurate weighing scale that can be understood by illiterate farmers. Farmers are encouraged to check the scales against objects of a known weight to prove Kuapa Kokoo is being honest. To further prevent corruption, Kuapa Kokoo has commissioned the production of weight stones - the equivalent to a full, single sack of cocoa - which are carried in Kuapa Kokoo vehicles and operations staff for official random checks on village recorders to ensure they are using accurate scales.

Kuapa Kokoo prides itself on its democratic nature and all decisions affecting the farmers are taken by elected representatives.

Elias with Scale credit Kim Naylor
Elias with a cocoa weighing scale © Kim Naylor

2. Efficient Operating Practices

Kuapa has created extremely cost-efficient operating practices which benefit the farmer.

  • Kuapa trains its members on how to weigh and bag cocoa, so that farmers learn additional skills and Kuapa can pay the farmers more per sack than other buying agents. At the end of each year, farmers are paid a cash bonus on a per sack basis, based on the money saved by the co-op from their efficient practices.
  • In 1996, Kuapa Kokoo introduced a credit payment system. In the past, Kuapa would pay for the delivered cocoa sacks 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 buyer, Cocobod. Under the deferred payment system, if the farmer agrees to wait for payment until Kuapa is paid for the sale, Kuapa will pass on some of the money saved from the interest from the loan. Often whole villages will agree to defer payment, so the entire community can benefit from the extra income.
  • Kuapa buys agricultural tools at bulk purchasing rates passing the 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

Kuapa aims to enhance women's role in decision making throughout the organization. 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 organization. In 2008, more women than men were voted onto the Kuapa National Executive - with women holding some of the most senior positions.

Kuapa has also supported income-generating activities for women to supplement their incomes, provide money for the family during the offseason, and make them less dependent on their men. One of these projects is teaching women how to make soap. Women make soap from the potash produced from burnt cocoa husks to sell which generates income, while recycling the waste from cocoa materials. Kuapa has 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. Additionally, Kuapa also organizes special seminars and workshops or women on a wide range of issues, such as nutrition, childcare, health, and credit facilities.

Soapmaking assensua

4. Fairtrade

Kuapa Kokoo sells about 1000 tons of cocoa to the European Fairtrade market. Provided that Kuapa meets internationally audited conditions regarding minimum health and safety conditions and that the organization is democratically run, the producers receive a guaranteed price for their goods and the security of long-term trading contracts. This is especially important since 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 ton (increasing to $2400 in October 2019), plus an extra $200 social premium (increasing to $240 in October 2019).

5. The Day Chocolate Company

In order to increase profits from their cocoa, as well as their knowledge of the western chocolate market, Kuapa Kokoo decided to produce their own branded chocolate bar for sale in western markets. In October of 1998, Kuapa Kokoo, Twin Trading, The Body Shop, Christian Aid, and Comic Relief founded 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. 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 American chocolate market.

Boy with first Divine bar

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.

These benefits are the reason why so many Kuapa Kokoo members keep joining. 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