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How we are helping women by advancing gender equality in the cocoa sector

March 08, 2022

Gender equality is crucial everywhere, and its impacts can be vividly seen in cocoa-growing communities around the globe. When women have more opportunities and support, family nutrition, children’s education, and family incomes go up, while social risks such as child labor and environmental risks go down.“

Gender equality goes beyond simply focusing on women directly,” said David Schwebel, community advisor for Cargill’s cocoa and chocolate business. “When we work together to break down biases, we are able to address root issues holistically in ways that lift up whole communities while empowering women and girls.”

To mark International Women’s Day, we, at Cargill, are working to #BreakTheBias, not only in our company and our supply chains but also in the communities where we have presence. As part of a longstanding commitment to women’s empowerment, we are working closely with key partners in every country where we source cocoa to make a holistic impact at scale.

Here are some examples of our ongoing work...

Côte d’Ivoire

We are partnering with Empow’Her and IFC to organize women into groups which also strengthens the capacity of women’s groups, including working through farmer organizations. This involves training and coaching women in how to start income-generating activities and their own businesses, with the support of participating cooperatives.

We have been working with our longstanding partner CARE to drive women’s economic empowerment and strengthen community governance in Côte d’Ivoire. Recently, we celebrated the formation of 101 Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) as part of the PROSPER project. Through this project, we are jointly moving the needle on women’s economic empowerment through the development of income-generating activities and entrepreneurship, business and nutrition training.

In addition, we continue to scale up our work to support women’s empowerment through VSLAs. We just announced a new partnership with CARE and The Starbucks Foundation through which we will aim to establish 120 VSLAs linked to 10 farmer organizations in our cocoa supply chain, using those VSLAs to drive positive progress in the areas of gender, nutrition, and water sanitation and hygiene (WASH).


We have been making a positive impact in Ghana for more than 10 years alongside our close partner CARE. This includes gender-specific interventions like VSLAs and technical training, which are improving the lives of women across cocoa-growing regions and empowering them to strengthen their communities.

For example, women supported by these programs from 2016 to 2019 saw a 30% increase in participation in household financial decision-making and an 18% increase in holding formal leadership positions. This has helped thousands of women like Elizabeth Ahou Yao, who was able to learn basic literacy and financial skills through our programs and begin saving money through a VSLA. Ultimately, she started a business growing additional crops and even became an employer of other women in her community.


We have launched a partnership with impact investment hub LadyAgri with the overall objective of empowering women to generate additional income for their households. Running from October 2021 to September 2022, the program will get implementation support from the Education and Health for All Foundation (EHAF).

Cargill will use our existing relationships with farmer organizations and communities to invite women to the program, which will be designed by LadyAgri. The target is to train 500 women in cocoa-growing households in central Cameroon, with an additional 4,000 family members expected to benefit. Training will focus on capacity building in good agricultural practices, safe food processing and packaging, social entrepreneurship, and more. Women in the program will learn how to cultivate non-cocoa crops for additional income while also increasing their access to processing technology and equipment necessary for market access.


Addressing the root causes of child labor helps give children – including girls – better access to quality education as well as greater opportunities when they grow up. Together with Save the Children, we have implemented a training and entrepreneurship program for youth at risk of child labor in cocoa-growing communities. It has reached more than 1,100 farmers through our Child Labor Monitoring and Remediation System (CLMRS). The broader program is also providing training to farmers on good agricultural practices, coaching, and access to farm inputs.

We are also working with partners in the country to help raise gender awareness in the cocoa supply chain with coaching sessions, farmer field schools, and farmer training days.


We are teaming up with Imaflora on an agroforestry project for women focused on fruit pulp production in the state of Pará, as a source of income diversification. Through workshops, women associated with the cooperatives of São Félix of the Xingu receive training and coaching on this sustainable, productive source of income. The project also includes actions to preserve forests and restore degraded areas by implementing nurseries of fruit seedlings. The goal is to reach 100 families directly and 2,500 more indirectly.

These initiatives are examples of how we are operating the Cargill Cocoa Promise in the countries where we source cocoa. Learn more about our women’s empowerment programs in the cocoa supply chain.

Cargill is a signatory to the United Nations Women’s Empowerment Principles