Cocoa Diaries Anne van der Veen

Global Program Manager
ETG/Beyond Beans
women sorting beans on cocoa farmer in cote d'ivoire

Meet Anne van der Veen, winner of the Women in Cocoa & Chocolate Network (WINCC) Gender Ambassador award. Through her efforts as Global Programs manager at ETG / Beyond Beans, Anne is managing sustainability projects involving 80,000 cocoa farmers, with a specific focus on gender equality and women empowerment.

I believe that improving cocoa livelihoods calls for a holistic approach, looking at the household and community and acknowledging the vital role women play in them” explained Anne upon receiving the award. “Empowering women to participate more in cocoa as a cash crop, having more decision-making power in the household and investing in women entrepreneurship outside of cocoa are key strategies for women to change the dynamics in cocoa.”

Anne has been working in cocoa since 2017 and has lived in Côte d’Ivoire. Anne and her colleagues are in contact every day with cocoa farming families and work on new activities for community development, the environment and livelihoods. She also has daily conversations with chocolate maker clients, cocoa cooperatives and implementing partners.

From her Netherlands-based office, Anne leads a team of more than 100 staff members, from program managers to field officers. As a woman and a mother, Anne is actively promoting female leadership inside the organization first and put the right conditions in place: inclusive recruitment, options for part time work, training and managing support. “Our challenge remains to get more women in the field teams, as this work is done on motorbikes and involves a lot of days on the road, so we still see that these are barriers for women. That is why we are extremely happy to have Brognan Akoua N’guettia as our Child Labour field officer, showing other women that it is possible!”

Anne also strives for equal opportunities for women in the cocoa value chain. For example, the company works with five women-led cooperatives. This is an important step, as they face unique challenges: for instance, it is harder for them to get working capital. ETG has specific revolving funds for women-led cooperatives, and has hired commercial experts to help them professionalize their logistics and financial administration. Anne also puts the emphasis on the role of men: “We should not see the work of women empowerment as efforts by women, but we need all the men in the cocoa sector to understand the benefits of including women, to give them space and support. So gender empowerment should be inclusive for men too.”

Her advice for creating a positive impact? “Just get started. Do not overthink a perfect gender strategy, but talk to the women in the supply chain and start the work. Once you start implementation, you will feel the energy of participating women, meet like-minded people and organizations, and learn from experience what works and what does not work. With this practical and positive mindset you will make impact and be able to build on this with new activities.”

Finally, Anne also shared her thoughts on the value of the WINCC network: “It is a great space for women in cocoa to meet in an informal way and to get inspired by contributions of other women. I think it is important for women to have a platform where we see role models, so that we strengthen our beliefs and own position because of these other women that went before us.”

Read more to meet Brognan Akoua N’guettia, winner of the 2021 WINCC Young Female in Cocoa award.