Lifting Up Women for a More Sustainable and Thriving Cocoa Sector

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Author Nira S. Desai

Senior Director of Strategy & Learning
World Cocoa Foundation

Over the past few years, increased emphasis has been placed by the development community on women’s empowerment – and for good reason. When more women work, economies grow. Research shows that an increase in female labor force participation—or a reduction in the gap between women’s and men’s labor force participation—results in faster economic growth.

This fact is particularly true for the cocoa sector, where women play a central, yet often unrecognized role, within the supply chain. Studies have found that women perform about half of farm-level tasks on West African cocoa farms—in addition to household tasks and other work—yet lag behind men in most measures of economic opportunity.

Lifting women up in the cocoa sector is not only good for women AND men, but for children as well. Evidence from a range of countries shows that increasing the share of household income managed by women, either through their own earnings or cash transfers, changes spending in ways that benefit children. Women are more likely than men to spend money on health and education, which keeps children away from the fields and in the classroom.

Knowing this, CocoaAction companies are working to empower 1,200 communities by increasing women’s opportunities and capabilities to generate increased income and influence decisions—an effort that is part of its 2020 goals. To make these goals a reality, these companies aligned and deepened their work in women’s empowerment interventions in 2016, including identifying 300 communities to receive community development interventions.

More specifically, here’s what CocoaAction is doing to empower women cocoa farmers and their communities:

Income Generating Activities

CocoaAction works to create Income Generating Activities (IGAs), which over time can empower them to generate additional income. Across four CocoaAction companies’ initiatives in Côte d’Ivoire, more than 1,100 women participated in IGAs in 2016.

Empowering Women in Cocoa Producing Countries

To combat long-standing cultural traditions and social constraints that often prohibit women from assuming leadership roles and contributing to their families’ incomes, WCF and a number of CocoaAction companies are raising the profile of women in cocoa-growing communities and addressing their needs. With expertise and insight provided by CARE International, CocoaAction companies have conducted gender assessments to better understand the roles of women in cocoa-growing communities.

Supporting Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana Village Savings and Loans Associations

In 2016, CocoaAction companies continued work with Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs)—first pioneered by CARE International in 1991. VSLAs complement and amplify CocoaAction interventions, and have proven to be an impressive model for empowering women in cocoa communities.

Driving Policy

WCF helps drive policy to empower women in cocoa-producing communities in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana by liaising with government agencies. In 2016, WCF worked with CocoaAction companies and farmers to implement field-based activities. Through the implementation of these activities, WCF and CocoaAction companies collected learnings that have allowed them to bring an informed perspective to conversations with policymakers and industry leaders about the value of including women in approaches to improving sustainability. CocoaAction companies’ efforts in women’s empowerment have laid the groundwork for critical conversations with the governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana.

Coordinating a Global Conference on Women in Cocoa

2017 GloCo Left to Right: Joyce Poku-Marboah, KooKoo Pa; Nira Desai, WCF; Hon. Otika Afisa Djaba, Ghana Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection; Vincent Manu, WCF; Simon Nango, Cargill; Josephine Dadzie, WCF
2017 GloCo Left to Right: Joyce Poku-Marboah, KooKoo Pa; Nira Desai, WCF; Hon. Otika Afisa Djaba, Ghana Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection; Vincent Manu, WCF; Simon Nango, Cargill; Josephine Dadzie, WCF

Earlier this year, WCF hosted the first ever 2017 Global Conference on Women in Cocoa with a focus on women’s economic empowerment/financial inclusion and land tenure. Close to 80 participants from around the world came together to identify priority actions that cocoa stakeholders can take together on women’s empowerment.

In implementing these groundbreaking interventions in 2016, CocoaAction companies identified the need for further exploration and improvement, which includes undertaking a gender-focused study to learn more about women’s needs and the roles they play in West Africa societies and cultures. These insights are crucial to CocoaAction’s further success and impact.

Please stay tuned for our upcoming 2016 CocoaAction Annual Report, which further explores learnings uncovered during 2016 implementation and data collection.