Lucy Shepherd: Empowering Women Cocoa Farmers

By Lucy Shepherd, Care International


The World Cocoa Foundation Partnership Meeting (WCFPM) from 26th – 27th October 2016 brought together key leaders within the cocoa industry from private, public and civil society organisations. Attendees discussed the challenges of ensuring the sustainability of cocoa and farmers’ livelihoods.

 

This year, the WCFPM was hosted in Côte d’Ivoire - described as the ‘land of cocoa’. Côte d’Ivoire is the world’s largest cocoa producing country with 1.7 million tons produced in 2015. As the world’s first cocoa producing country, Côte d’Ivoire has an economy which is very much dependent on cocoa. 

 

Daniel Kablan Duncan, Côte d’Ivoire’s Prime Minister attended the first day of the conference and highlighted  in his speech that ensuring the sustainability of cocoa is integral to strengthening the country’s economy - this will not only improve the lives of the farming communities but will improve the lives of the entire country through economic sustainability.

 

Women’s leadership

 

The WCFPM provided a platform to discuss some of the aligned challenges facing the sector, including empowering women and ensuring they have a voice. In Ghana and the Côte d’Ivoire, cocoa is generally seen as a male crop, even though women play a critical role in its production.

 

Mondelēz International commissioned CARE International to conduct a peer-to-peer learning review: Women’s leadership in Cocoa Life communities.   The review used the CARE gender equality framework to assess the Cocoa Life programme, which CARE and Mondelēz International have been working together on since 2009, through the Cadbury Cocoa Partnership, which evolved into Cocoa Life in 2012. The report reviewed the programmes impact in building agency, changing relations, and transforming structures.

 

The report found Mondelēz International’s investment in mainstreaming women’s leadership in Cocoa Life is having a positive effect on women’s agency.  Through working together on the Cocoa Life partnership, CARE and Mondelēz  International have enabled women to have greater access to and control over productive and financial resources, strengthened their ability to become community leaders and established women as role models in the community, resulting in positive returns to the women and their communities. Cocoa Life has provided structures and processes that enhance the voice and participation of women, providing them with a platform to exercise their agency including women’s groups and Village Saving and Loan Associations (VSLAs). 

 

However, there is a long way to go before women are truly empowered in the cocoa value chain.  The report makes recommendations to address the root causes of gender inequality by tackling land rights, household power dynamics, women’s time burden and gender based violence, which could lead to truly gender transformational approach. 

 

Based on our findings and recommendations Mondelēz  International will further strengthen interventions that have been identified as working well and include new actions to empower women across our program at scale, as set out in their approach on women’s empowerment as a cross-cutting theme for Cocoa Life. 

 

Access to finance

 

CARE’s Youssouf Ndjore spoke at WCFPM about the importance of diversifying financial inclusion options for women.  Access to finance is also a major constraint for female cocoa farmers, something echoed at the conference and in CARE’s report. There are over one billion women across the world who don’t have access to financial services. For instance, in rural areas, such as Daloa in Côte d’Ivoire, they don’t have the physical infrastructure for rural communities to access finance.  Even if the infrastructure was there, there’s no guarantee that women would be able to access financial services.

 

Women in CARE’s Cocoa Life communities are benefitting from VSLAs. Through these associations women can access finance which they are then able to invest. The women I spoke to said that the money they borrow from the VSLA enables them to invest in their farm, purchasing fertilizer which is critical to maintain healthy cocoa.

 

I spoke to cocoa farming families in Côte d’Ivoire, they told me that the additional income in the house pays for health care when their children are sick and can buy school supplies for their children.  In their community, when women can earn money they have more power within the household as they are making a contribution to the household. 

 

At the WCFPM it was evident that empowering women is a key driver of change which needs to be addressed by all actors within the cocoa sector in order to ensure a sustainable supply chain.  

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