A report on research conducted to ascertain key insights into cocoa sector co-operatives has recommended the prioritization and strengthening of governance systems to help build solid foundations for farmer groups in the cocoa sector.
The research was commissioned by the Fairtrade Foundation, a global movement that tackles injustices of conventional trade by helping small-scale farmers, with support from the Open Society Foundation.
It aimed at helping to gain deeper insight and understanding of how to unlock the value of co-operatives for cocoa farmers in Ghana, one of the world’s biggest exporters of the crop.
The report which was made available to the Ghana News Agency in Kumasi said strengthening governance was critical in investment decisions by the co-operatives.
The research was carried out through focus group discussions with cocoa farmers in Fairtrade’s West Africa Producer Network, as well as interviews with a range of relevant stakeholders in the sector, including Fairtrade cocoa co-operatives.
The report also recommended the creation of better value chain guidelines for more coordinated and diversify external support and the facilitation of better co-operative networks and platforms that included space for co-operatives to address internal challenges confidently as they arose.
Additionally, the report recommended some proposals on how better to identify obstacles to improving farmers’ experiences within co-operatives, and how to support co-operatives in their journey to scale up impact for members, sharecroppers, and farm owners’ families.
Mr Brian Doe, Programmes Development Manager at the Fairtrade Foundation told the GNA that “our new report, supported by Open Society
Foundations present a much-needed opportunity to interrogate factors that can support or hinder the success of cocoa co-operatives in Ghana in creating value for farmers.
The voices and experiences of farmers were critical to the recommendations in the report: we hope they are heard by the sector so that together we can better unlock the potential of producer-led co-operatives to improve farmers’ lives.”
According to the Fairtrade report, a range of internal and external forces and factors could affect the co-operative’s ability to support farmers.
The internal factors include the similarity and integration of members within the co-operative, the formation and organization of the leadership class in a collective organization, and how operating procedures are designed to promote equitable distribution of benefits across farmers and cocoa-producing communities.
Among the external factors are the complex relations between farm owners and farmworkers, linked to larger social traditions in Ghana, and the pressure put on co-operatives to negotiate partnerships with commercial actors that may encourage centralizing power rather than allowing for democratic, decentralized decision-making in an organization.
A further external factor is the growing role of public institutions, such as the Ghanaian Department of Co-operatives, which have the potential to drive a policy of collective ownership of the cocoa sector but are also impacted by complex political pressures and limited means.