FCIA Fine Chocolate Glossary


A cooperative is an association controlled by its voluntary members, who pool resources to meet their common economic, social, and/or cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically controlled business. Cooperatives are vital to maintaining profitable livelihoods for smallholder farmers.

The main difference between a collective and a cooperative is that each member owns one share of common stock in the enterprise, and has one vote. Some cooperatives also have investors who own preferred stock but have no vote.

By-laws and policies vary, as well as capitalization entities; sole proprietorship, LLC, S or C Corporations.

In the cacao world, voting farmer members of the cooperative are those who use its products, supplies, and/or services. Price of goods are decided upon by the members of the cooperative, and services are provided. These services include education, technical assistance, splitting operational costs, improving infrastructure and roads, increasing bargaining power for sales, ensuring year round production, jointly processing goods: harvest, aggregation, fermentation, drying, and marketing cocoa and chocolate products for participating farmer members, thereby bringing prosperity to the community.

In an effort to assist smallholder cacao farmers in the Manabi province of Ecuador, near the Finca ChoCoaque farm of Leslie Colter, a station was constructed for the aggregation, fermentation, and drying of cacao beans. The harvest from 10 organic-certified Nacional cacao farms in the Jama River valley was collected, and an order for tons of products was fulfilled. Thanks to the cooperative, the farmers received a significantly higher price, which would not have been possible otherwise.

Próximamente versión en español

Collection of bags of cacao beans; photo courtesy of Frandy Andres Arturo Ramirez.

Unloading of wet beans; photo courtesy of Frandy Andres Arturo Ramirez

Entry added: August 16, 2023
Verified on: September 14, 2023

Authored by

Leslie Colter, Cacao Farm Small Holder
Producer / farmer


What is a Cooperative,” Nebraska Cooperative Development Center, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Accessed on September 7, 2023.

What is a Cooperative?,” Aimée Knight and Gaurisha Malhotra, Heifer International, January 5, 2022.

Hawai’i ‘Ulu Cooperative,” Hawai’i ‘Ulu Cooperative, Accessed on September 7, 2023.

Agricultural Cooperatives: Specifics, Role, Pros & Cons,” EOS Data Analytics, June 26, 2022.

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