Business News of 2014-04-22

Kuapa Kokoo – A success story propelled by cocoa

They are purely ordinary cocoa farmers in Ghana, but through hard work and determination, Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union, a cooperative cocoa farmers’ association, now boasts 45 per cent share in Divine Chocolates, a chocolate producing company in the UK with a subsidiary in the United States of America.
The meaning is that with such a stake in an international factory, whenever the Divine Chocolate makes profit, the ordinary cocoa farmer in a village in Ghana will benefit from the dividend from far away United Kingdom. A distance of about 4836.56 kilometres.
Divine Chocolate Company Limited uses Kuapa Kokoo’s cocoa beans for its products and the sumptuous cocoa products could be found on well-established markets in 10 countries.
The farmers Union is made up of over 85,000 farmers who make up the 1,330 societies. Members are mainly from the cocoa-producing regions of Ashanti, Eastern, Western, 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 liberalised in the country in the early 1990s.
Led by Nana Frimpong Abebrese II, with assistance from Twin, a UK based NGO, formed the farmer-based organisation.
The Partners Body Shop, Comic relief, Fair-trade, International Labour Organisation, Trading visions, Twin Limited AND Comic Relief are organisations which have continued to support Kuapa Kokoo to attain such an enviable height.
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 organisations’, Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union can boast of specialist subsidiaries: Kuapa Kokoo Limited (KKL), Kuapa Kokoo Credit Union, Divine Chocolate Company Limited and Divine Chocolate Inc and Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Trust.
To the amazement of industry watchers, this farmer-based organisation with core values of transparency, democracy, equity, commitment and care for community continues to better the lives of its members.
These values manifest in the structure of the organisation. 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, while the remaining six are regional representatives.
They serve for four years, renewable only once. The NEC exercise oversight responsibilities of the structures and organs, as well as formations of policies and programmes.
The DEC superintends 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 patently manifests at the Society Executive Committee (SEC) level. The SEC is a five-member committee elected by all the members at the society level and they include 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 Ahafo and Western Regions, the organisation was formed in 1993 to assemble cocoa producers in Ghana who believed in the principle of fairness, democracy, equity and dignity and are willing to sell their produce to KKL through the Union’s establishment.
Two years after its establishment, Kuapa Kokoo hooked to the Fairtrade movement realising that the Fairtrade idea is one great idea to ensure 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 further quality cocoa production that can compete effectively both on the local and international markets.
Members also aim to ensure that the farmers participate equally in the development, decision making and management of the Union.
They are also supported to take advantage of trade opportunities both locally and internationally that seeks to improve their well-being 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 oversees, ensures the judicious ???? 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 livelihood of its farmers.
Kuapa Kokoo again organises mobile clinics in cocoa-growing communities to help farmers whose health is at risk providing the farmers with qualified doctors, nurses, pharmacists who will take care of the health of farmers and also provide medication.
The 20 years of Kuapa existence has seen eight schools built, 350 hand-dug wells, 19 boreholes, seven toilet facilities, 56 corn mills.
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.
The organisation uses some of the Fairtrade premium to pay cash bonuses of Gh¢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 farmers for their hard work, Kuapa gives each farmer a farm tool, especially a machete at the end of every cocoa season.
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 in turn gained confidence and understood the world of cocoa through such opportunities
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