Finally a chocolate that can taste as good on your lips as it does for your soul. Meet Kuapa Kokoo, the largest cocoa farmers’ cooperative organization with 45,000 cocoa growers established in Ghana in 1993. The cooperative was formed in part of fear of Ghana’s liberalization of the internal cocoa market which farmers feared would lead to the entry of private companies into the market with whom they would be unable to compete.
Today their united front has proved strong, with the Kuapa Kokoo a model of what small farmers all over the world can do to strengthen their communities through the control of production of their own food.
Member farmers are no longer cheated as they are by other cocoa buying companies. According to their site, 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. All of the decisions affecting the farmers are taken by elected representatives.
However, these farmers are not just men lifting their voice, but active and engaged women in the community too. Gender awareness in the Kuapa aims to enhance the active and effective participation of women in decision-making – there is actually a minimum number of members of the councils that have to be women, and in 2008 this growth saw that more women than men were voted into the Kuapa National Executive with some women holding the most senior positions.
You can find Kuapa Kokoo selling to various companies internationally, their biggest alliance being with Divine Chocolate. Divine CHocolate was set up by Kuapo Kokoo and Twin trading in 1997, with the company using primarily Kuapa cocoa and the cooperative also holding 45% of Divine Chocolate’s stock. Their distinctive wrapper featuring Adinkra symbols of Cote d’Ivoire in West Africa, the community takes pride in their chocolate. And you can too as you bite into a piece of chocolate that you know helps support a community that is building itself up.
A Reuters short feature on the Kuapa Kokoo cooperative:
I am a 58 year old mother of six. The eldest of my children is already 31 years old and the youngest is 23. I live in a village of 200 people close to the cocoa farm. I have worked as a cocoa farmer for 20 years. Before that I made clothes for a living. The best thing about working here is that I can provide for myself and take care of my children. All my children have had the chance to go to school. They have done very well: one is a doctor, another a nurse, the third a policeman and the others are still studying. I am the secretary of Kuapa Kokoo’s women’s group; we provide information about Kuapa Kokoo and cocoa farming to different visitors. Through the women’s group we have been able to provide loans for poor families for example. There are 60 members in the group. The best thing about Fairtrade is that it doesn’t cheat.