Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union, or Kuapa Kokoo, is a cocoa producer cooperative founded in Ghana in 1993 as a response to the liberalization of the country’s cocoa market. It is the only farmer-owned organization among the myriad of private companies granted government licenses to trade cocoa out of Ghana. In this marketing role, Kuapa Kokoo purchases cocoa from members on behalf of the state-run cocoa board, which also controls all exports. Kuapa Kokoo represents an estimated 50,000 small-scale cocoa growers, producing about five percent of Ghana's total cocoa production. The members of Kuapa Kokoo are predominantly poor small-holders living in the most remote and under-resourced parts of the country. Many cocoa-growing villages do not have potable water, paved roads, health clinics, motorized transportation or electricity. Most villages lack basic schools, educational materials and teachers. Some farmers are able to grow plantain, coco yam, cassava and vegetables for home consumption, and plantain, oranges and palm fruits for sale at local markets. However, the soil on many cocoa farms is too poor to grow other crops so this cultivation incurs more costs and preparation. Apart from basic education, there are no free social services in Ghana. Farmers must pay for services like health care and secondary education. In this context, Kuapa Kokoo represents a unique empowerment effort that enables small cocoa farmers to have a voice in cooperative governance and attain more information on their negotiations with cocoa buyers. Kuapa Kokoo is made up of an estimated 1,300 village societies that elect committees and representatives at a regional level, who in turn elect representatives to the National Union. This Union represents farmers’ interests to government and industry officials and reports valuable information back to its members. Kuapa Kokoo has been Fair Trade Certified™ since 1996. Fair Trade is helping the cooperative develop a strong and democratic institutional framework. It is helping farmers, especially women, empower themselves, build confidence and independence, and ensure a sense of community participation and ownership. Kuapa Kokoo now owns about 45 percent of Divine Chocolate Ltd. and 33 percent of Divine Chocolate USA, Inc., which sell Fair Trade Certified Divine and Dubble chocolates in the UK and U.S. This unique venture allows Kuapa Kokoo’s members to increase their profits from the value-added sales of chocolate and enhance their knowledge of the western chocolate markets in which their beans end up.
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