Margreet Groot: Empower a Woman and a Whole Cocoa Community will Thrive

Image: Women’s group leader and cocoa farmer Gladys from Ghana

By Margreet Groot, Lead Communication Strategist and Budget Manager, Cocoa Life, Mondelēz International

Do you know where chocolate comes from? Do you wonder who produced the cocoa in your chocolate and under what circumstances? Do you care if the chocolate you buy is sourced in a responsible way, with equal access and opportunity for women?

Without cocoa there is no chocolate, and without the next generation of cocoa farmers there is no cocoa. To create a sustainable supply chain, we need to transform the lives and livelihoods of cocoa growing communities. At Mondelēz International we believe that empowering women like Gladys (pictured above) benefits everyone and is essential for cocoa growing communities to thrive.

Research shows that increasing women’s involvement leads to improved financial management by farmers, better education of youth and more sustainable, thriving communities.

This is why our sustainability programme Cocoa Life is deliberate about promoting women’s empowerment. Cocoa Life has been working to mainstream gender empowerment and to increase women’s agency across the cocoa sector since 2008. We know that women are a catalyst for change and amplify the impact of our programme.

In 2016 we asked CARE International to assess our progress in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. They reported increased cocoa yields from giving women better access to farmer training, increased household income through access to finance, and improved role of women in decision-making. Based on CARE’s recommendations we will further strengthen interventions that have been identified as working well and include new actions to empower women across our programme at scale, and we have published our evolved approach on women’s empowerment.

Our interventions are aligned with UN High Level Panel for Women’s Economic Empowerment recommendations and we already see their positive impact on the ground, in the 861 cocoa communities where Cocoa Life is active. For instance our experience confirms that when women receive equal access to land, finance, training and inputs, productivity increases significantly. This is critical to increase the income of cocoa farming families.

To do this, in Cocoa Life we established 1,208 Village Savings & Loan Associations (VSLA). 22,367 community members, nearly 80% of which are women, are taking part in these VSLAs and benefiting from improved financial literacy, a growing culture of savings, additional sources of income and ultimately better resilience for cocoa farming families. (For these and more figures, see our 2016 progress report.)

In line with the recommendation on ‘changing business culture and practice’, we’re living up to our commitment towards transparency and have mapped the cocoa farms that are part of the programme across Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, and Indonesia. We make the location available for all to see with an interactive map updated with live data from the three key cocoa origins.

Business, governments, the public sector, we all have a role to play in taking the UN High Level Panel for Women’s Economic Empowerment agenda forward. This is one of the points Cathy Pieters, Director of Cocoa Life (pictured below, far right) made during the Empowering women in the economy event organised by CARE.

CARE event panellists including Cathy Pieters

We welcome these recommendations as our work continues to evolve on women’s empowerment in partnership with NGOs such as Abantu for Development, CARE International, VSO, World Vision, Save the Children and Solidaridad as well as the governments in key cocoa growing origins like Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire and Indonesia.

As more and more of our chocolate brands – Côte d’Or, Suchard, Cadbury Dairy Milk, Green & Black’s – start sourcing cocoa through Cocoa Life, consumers can find the Cocoa Life logo on their chocolate pack, and know about the farmers who produced the cocoa in the chocolate they love.

Editor's Note:

This article first appeared on CARE International and is reproduced with permission.

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