They are the only organization in the Ghana’s cocoa industry which is purely handled by ordinary cocoa farmers. In a strict sense Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union is governed and controlled by the cocoa farmers and with hard work and determination, the Union, a cooperative cocoa farmers’ association now boasts of 45 per cent share in Divine Chocolate, a chocolate company in UK and United States of America.
The meaning is that with such a stake in the international factory, whenever Divine Chocolate makes profit, the ordinary cocoa farmer in a village in Ghana would benefit from the dividend from far away United Kingdom - a distance of over 4836.56 kilometers away.
Divine Chocolates uses Kuapa Kokoo’s cocoa beans for its products and the sumptuous cocoa products could be found on well established markets in 10 European countries.
The Farmers Union which is made up of over 85,000 farmers who make up the 1,330 societies. Members are mainly from the major cocoa producing regions of Ashanti, Eastern, Western South, Western North, Central and Brong Ahafo, have an equal say in the management of the Kuapa Kokoo.
This celebrated Kuapa Kokoo success story started when the cocoa purchasing business was liberalized in the country in the early 1990s.
Led by Nana Frimpong Abebrese II, a group of five farmers who all hail from Akomadan (a town one and half drive from Kumasi) with assistance from Twin, a UK based NGO, formed the farmer-based organisation.
To the amazement of industry watchers, this farmer based organisation with core values of transparency, democracy, equity, commitment and care for community continue to better the lives of its members – ordinary cocoa farmers.
Their prime business is tendering cocoa trees to reap maximum beans from the yields to earn a living, however through their tenacity and support from other partners’, Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union can boast of four (4) subsidiaries: Kuapa Kokoo Limited, Kuapa Kokoo Credit Union, Divine Chocolate Company Limited and Divine Chocolate Inc and Kuapa Kokoo Framers Trust.
The structure is made up of the National Executive Council, (NEC) District Executive Committee (DEC) and the Society Executive Committee (SEC).
As a demonstration of their practical commitment to internal participatory democracy, seven out of the 13 member NEC members are elected through transparent balloting by the National Assembly, whilst the remaining six are regional representatives. They serve for a four year term renewable only once. The NEC exercise oversight responsibilities over the structures and organs as well as formation of policies and programs.
The DEC superintend over the district activities, including keeping records, gathering data as well as drawing up programmes. It has a critical say in the admission or suspension of societies within its seven members, who are also elected.
The grassroots nature of the farmers’ association is clearly manifest at the Society Executive Committee level. The SEC is a five member committee elected by all the members at the society level and they are: a President, a Vice President, a Secretary, a Treasurer and a Recorder. The SEC is in-charge of purchasing cocoa from the society members and ensures fair distribution of all benefit to members.
With an initial membership of 2,000 in 22 societies in the Ashanti, Brong and Western Regions the organization formed in 1993 to assemble cocoa producers in Ghana who believe in the principle of fairness, dignity and are willing to sell their produce to the Union. Two years after its establishment, Kuapa Kokoo hooked to the Fairtrade movement realizing that the Fairtrade idea is one that ensures poverty eradication and producer empowerment.
Members of the Union are also thought to adopt best agricultural practices with the aim of sustaining the environment for production.
The Union aim to ensure that the members participate equally in its development, decision-making and management.
They are also supported to take advantage of trade opportunities both locally and internationally that seeks to improve their wellbeing by increasing their voice in addressing the inequities in the global trading system.
Kuapa Kokoo Framer Trust is established to receive most of the funds from Fairtrade premiums. The trust which is managed by board of trustees who are all elected farmers, professionals and representatives of Kuapa International partners overseas ensures the judicious use of the resources according to the wishes of members at their annual general meeting.
It prides itself as the first Fair-trade certified cocoa cooperative to establish child labour awareness programme designed to empower rural cocoa farmers and other community stakeholders through collective and individual initiative.
This enables the farmers to combat and eliminate child labour and other child rights violations in the communities with minimal external support.
Over the years, Fairtrade premiums have also been used by Kuapa Kokoo to fund projects such as building of schools, construction of boreholes, extension teams in farming communities to enhance the productivity of its farmers. Kuapa Kokoo again organizes mobile clinics in cocoa growing communities to help farmers whose health is at risk - providing the farmers with qualified doctors, nurses, pharmacists who take care of the health needs of farmers and also provide medication.
The twenty years of Kuapa existence has seen 8 schools built, 350 hands dug wells, 19 boreholes, 7 toilet facilities, 56 corn mills in the 5 regions it operates. The Union has also attended to the health needs of over 5,605 members (including cataracts and hernia) since 2011 and trained over 60 women groups numbering 586 women in leadership and skill training in 22 districts across the regions.
The organisation use some of the Fairtrade premium to pay cash bonuses of GhȻ 4 on each bag of cocoa sold by farmers apart from the bonuses paid by government, this is intended to improve the standard of living of farmers. In order to reward and encourage their farmers for their hard work, Kuapa give each farmer a farm tool of a machete at the end of every cocoa season in addition to the bonus.
Kuapa members again pride themselves as owning a Chocolate Company (Divine Chocolate) in the UK and the USA. Through Divine Chocolate and Fairtrade, farmers have had the opportunity to interact yearly with consumers of chocolate abroad to tell them their stories, their farming activities, and the benefits of Fairtrade. Farmers’ thus gained confidence and understands the world of cocoa through such opportunities.
Its new innovation is an eight weeks radio programme dubbed – the ‘’Kuapa Mmere’’ in which experts agronomists and leaders of the Union sit on radio and offers education to the members on improved agricultural techniques as well the Union’s governance systems.
The above clearly indicates the twenty years of Kuapa Kokoo has been well spent and is worth celebrating. The premiums received through the Fairtrade over the years have been well utilized in empowering the livelihood of members and their communities.
The following partners: Body Shop, Comic relief, Fair-trade, International Labour Organisation, Trading Visions, Twin Limited and SNV Netherlands have greatly stood behind Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union in the last twenty years in improving the livelihood of small scale cocoa famers in Ghana.