“I joined Kuapa Kokoo because the policies are very good and it belongs to the farmers. Democracy has its own power – that’s why I wanted to join.” Nare Penten
Legal structures might not be the most exciting thing to think about, but as we within the co-operative sector know, they can be used to great effect to direct and manage business activity democratically.
We actively support – and only lend to – member owned businesses with employee and/or community ownership written into governing documents, as we know this means that all the benefits stay with the members, whether they are employees or the community, and that the business is run in accordance with what the members want.
Did you know that Divine Chocolate is the only chocolate company in the world which is 100% Fairtrade and owned by cocoa farmers?
The farmer owned co-operative behind Divine is Kuapa Kokoo – a name which means ‘good cocoa farmers’ in Twi, the language of 7 million people.
Established in 1993 with 2000 farmers, today it is Ghana’s leading producer of ethical cocoa beans with over 100,000 registered members – all smallholder cocoa farmers, within around 1,300 communities in 57 primary Societies in six cocoa growing regions. Fairtrade certified since 1995, Kuapa Kokoo is also UTZ and Rainforest Alliance certified. Two seats at the Divine Board table are held by Kuapa Kokoo representatives, ensuring that their voices are heard and they have a say in the business.
Co-operatives everywhere do so much more than trade – they are values-led businesses addressing a range of issues – and Kuapa Kokoo is no exception. Their multi-stranded income from Divine is explained in detail here and includes a ‘Fairtrade premium’ which the co-operative invests in their own projects to improve the farmers’ living, health and education standards, as well as farming productivity. This has included things like sinking bore holes, building schools and toilet blocks. With funding from Divine’s Producer Support and Development fund (2% of Divine’s annual turnover), they are committed to empowering women, for example running literacy and numeracy courses, to eliminate child labour from cocoa production, and to maintain co-operative values among members.
Furthermore, as with many co-ops, Kuapa Kokoo works in tune with their environment, not against it – no vast plantations for them, but instead, individual family farms. They know that cocoa grows best in the shade of the rainforest canopy and the humid environment the rainforest creates is best for the midges, perfectly placed pollinators. So, with some of the profits, the farmers are actively conserving the tall forest trees – replacing old cocoa trees with new seedlings, and actually planting new hardwood trees.
So if you’re looking for a last minute Easter Egg, consider Divine – while you’re enjoying their delicious chocolate (and they have plenty of vegan options) you’ll be helping farmers like Esther have access to clean water and a more sustainable and empowered future – lifechanging stuff!
“Kuapa has also sunk a borehole in my village which means everyone now has access to clean water” – Esther Ephraim Mintah