This article explores the activities and functioning of urban food trader associations in Ghana. These associations are strong indigenous groups of women traders who have been able to sustain cooperation over many years in contrast to many other forms of collective action. They shape urban food systems and link urban consumers with rural producers. The analysis relates the findings to the literature on socio‐economics, institutional economics and collective action. Of particular interest are the social relations and networks within associations that allow traders to access informal credit and information with contracts based on trust. The factors that contribute to the ability to sustain collective action are explored. These include leadership structures and acceptance of the authority of market queens by other women traders, as well as the need to have the benefits that come from membership of associations.