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Empowering women cocoa farmers in Côte d'Ivoire

April 15, 2014

Women farmers represent nearly half of Africa’s agricultural workers and are critically important to developing the full potential of African agriculture and food security. However, they historically haven’t had the support needed to grow from subsistence farming to smallholder production and beyond.

Now, a series of projects by Cargill, Kellogg and U.K. retailer ASDA aims to understand and help overcome the barriers for women in cocoa farming communities in Côte d'Ivoire.
In cocoa, women are involved in activities such as planting seedlings, collecting cocoa pods, transporting, fermenting and drying cocoa beans. Often their role is unrecognized as they balance household work with farming and have unequal access to training, inputs, and education.

“Côte d'Ivoire is the largest cocoa producing country in the world, yet estimates show that only four percent of cocoa farmers are women. With support from Kellogg and ASDA, we’re aiming to better understand the barriers to women in cocoa farming communities and initiate activities that give women the access to training, support and education to improve their own and their families’ livelihoods”, said Taco Terheijden, director of Cocoa Sustainability at Cargill.

The projects aim to improve the understanding of how gender barriers may limit access to skills, information and inputs amongst women in cocoa growing communities including:

  • A gender sensitization training program for Anader agents (Côte d'Ivoire’s national agency for rural development)
  • A situational analysis, with help from international poverty-fighting organization CARE, to gain further insights into the real barriers preventing women cocoa farmers from attending cocoa field schools
  • Funding of a specific female-only training for up to 1,000 women farmers to help them improve their agricultural and business skills, supported by the African Cocoa Initiative, a World Cocoa Foundation led program.

The partnership has already supported the first gender sensitization training program for 100 regional agents from Anader who are responsible for training cocoa farmers in local communities. Cargill currently trains over 70,000 Ivorian cocoa farmers through its network of 1,800 Farmer Field Schools with the support of Anader. The three-day training, completed in April, raised awareness of gender issues and provided practical steps for Anader agents to implement in their day-to-day activities, which are being cascaded throughout the organization.

“The inclusion of women in training sessions and fully recognizing the contribution they make in cocoa production is an important element for the production of cocoa quality and improving the living conditions of their families”, commented N'Dry Florence, chef de zone, Dabou at Anader.

"CARE’s research will help identify the specific barriers to women’s participation in training in order to make recommendations on how we can support people and industry to integrate a gendered approach to cocoa trading,” said Helene Gayle, CARE president and chief executive officer. “We look forward to working in partnership to enable these women to reach their full potential.”

As part of its 2020 goals, leading cereal maker Kellogg has committed to responsibly sourcing its priority ingredients, including cocoa, and to developing programs to help improve the livelihoods of women. “Supporting women farmers not only directly benefits them, but it also creates a positive ripple effect for their families and communities,” said Diane Holdorf, Kellogg’s chief sustainability officer. “We’re working to close the gender gap between the number of women working in the cocoa farms and those receiving training.”

“ASDA recognizes the crucial role that women play in the production of cocoa. It is important that their voice is heard in the discussions on the future of cocoa. This may be the first time the supply chain from retail shelf to food manufacturer to processor and the farmer have come together on gender issues. ASDA is pleased to be able to link with our partners on this project, Cargill and Kellogg, to use our contributions to develop and raise awareness of women's' roles in cocoa farming,” said Christopher Brown, senior director of sustainable business for ASDA Store.

The female-only training which will benefit up to 1,000 women cocoa farmers will commence in the next few months. The training, which is being supported by the African Cocoa Initiative – a World Cocoa Foundation led program – will focus on teaching better agricultural practices, supporting cocoa tree nursery development as an income-generating activity, as well as providing business skills training and improving literacy.