Cooperatives are organisations that are owned and managed by the people who work there.
For some of the poorest people in the world, working in a cooperative can be a great way for smallholder farmers to increase their incomes by pooling resources and sharing profits.
Witness, a farmer in Malawi, is a member of her local rice cooperative. We are supporting a project to set up more rice cooperatives like this, and to form a national union of rice cooperatives in Malawi.
When farmers sell individually to buyers, they get about 15p per kilo for their rice.
'This year we got 26p per kilo... so it’s much better working with the cooperative,' Witness says.
Christian Aid was one of the founders of the Divine Chocolate company back in 1997.
Divine is the first and only UK mainstream chocolate company to be owned by a cooperative of cocoa farmers.
The farmers are part of the Kuapa Kokoo cooperative in Ghana.
Kuapa Kokoo has a 45% share in Divine Chocolate Ltd, so the farmers get dividends from Divine’s profits (as well as the Fairtrade premium for their cocoa, and 2% of Divine’s annual turnover).
After seeing the benefits of being part of a cooperative, more and more farmers have wanted to join.
Kuapa Kokoo started with just 2,000 farmers. Now they have over 80,000 members!
As the co-operative celebrates its 20th year, hear more about Kuapa Kokoo and Divine Chocolate in this podcast:
In Nicaragua, we support the work of our partner the Hibiscus cooperative.
Made up of mostly women farmers, the cooperative collectively processes the edible hibiscus flower – used in tea, juice and wine.
Our support has enabled the cooperative to run as a business, and today it sells directly to more than 80 supermarkets in the country.
It is also the first Nicaraguan company to provide organic dried hibiscus to the US market.
Follow the journey of the hibiscus flower from tree to shelf in this gallery:
To view the gallery full-screen, simply press play and then select the enlarge button on the bottom right. To show the captions, select 'Show info' on the top right.
Find out more about some of the other cooperatives that we work with.