Kuapa Kokoo Ghanaian Farming Co-op: Cocoa Farmers Making a Difference
Divine Chocolate is a chocolate making company who source all their beans from a collective in Ghana. In fact, the company is 45% owned by the very farmers from whom the beans are purchased so not only do the farmers benefit from Fairtrade pricing on their beans (as well as fair scales) but they also benefit when chocolate is sold through making money through the company. They have a stake in every part of the chain. I also love Divine because their Fairtrade ethos permeates everything from ensuring bars like their mango, coconut and dark chocolate are over 95% Fairtrade ingredients to making sure nothing, not even shipping carriers, contains palm oil.
There are many farmers who make up the collective that is Kuapa Kokoo. In fact, there are 65,000 members of the co-operative meaning that its membership is greater than the population of some towns. Most of the members own their own family plot and farm the beans, ferment them and dry them in a way that was developed with the people making the chocolate to ensure a standard flavour and quality all the way through the chain. By working with farmers, Divine ensures that the farmers make more money, learn better techniques and thus make better beans for better chocolate.
One of the farmers is MERCY ZAAH. She was born in 1963 so she’s no spring chicken 😉 She comes from Krobo Odumasi in the eastern region of Ghana. Mercy got into cocoa farming in 1986 when she was 23 (and I was a mere 16). She has a 12 acre farm and is able to harvest approximately 90 cocoa sacks per season. She is also married with five children – what a rock star! She joined Kuapa Kokoo in 1999 because of “how they care for their farmers”. Mercy’s commitment and loyalty to Kuapa over the years has resulted in her colleagues electing her as the Treasurer of Adiyaa society and also as the President of the Women’s Society. Mercy is the current vice-president of the Dadieso district – a position she was elected to in 2010. She is a very hardworking cocoa farmer who works on her farm Monday to Friday and sews for as a hobby. What an amazing woman, and an amazing farmer.
One of the other, younger farmers in the Kuapa Kokoo is MAVIS ADU GYAMFI and she is a recorder of Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union in Sefwi – Akotombra society. She is 26 years old and a native of Sefwi – Akotombra which is in the northern part of the western region of Ghana. Mavis studied accounting at Kumasi polytechnic in the Ashanti region of Ghana and holds a diploma in business studies. Her parents are also cocoa farmers and members of Kuapa Kokoo. Mavis joined Kuapa Kokoo in 2009 and says “I decided to join Kuapa when I benefited from the Kuapa mobile clinic project” because Kuapa Kokoo isn’t just about beans, it’s about farmers, the land and education. She has a well-managed farm of 6 acres and is able to produce annually 40-45 bags of cocoa on average. Her number one ambition is to be a full time farmer.
Both of these women are amazing and there are 65,000 other men and women who are all working their farms and selling their beans through the Kuapa Kokoo collective. They benefit in so many ways beyond being paid a fair price with a fair set of scales to weigh their bags. These farmers value the land and the trees and work together to produce the best cocoa that they can.