New Report Guides Cocoa Life’s Expansion of Women’s Empowerment Programs

Progress Blog
New Report Guides Cocoa Life’s Expansion of Women’s Empowerment Programs

By Christine McGrath, Vice President of Sustainability, Cocoa Life, and External Affairs at Mondelēz International - 10/20/16

We learned on our 8-year journey of empowering women, that they are a catalyst for change and amplify the impact of our program. Based on CARE International’s recommendations in their report ‘Women’s leadership in Cocoa Life communities’ we will further strengthen interventions that has been identified as working well and include new actions to empower women across our program at scale. This publication is our evolved approach on women’s empowerment as a cross-cutting theme for Cocoa Life.

Since Cocoa Life’s launch in 2012, women’s empowerment has been a focus. From the first study in Ghana that informed the Cadbury Cocoa Partnership, which grew into Cocoa Life, we knew that women’s empowerment would be an important part of transforming the cocoa supply chain. Since then, gender equality has expanded to become a lever to achieve our overall goals, and a cross-cutting theme embedded into every aspect of the program.

With eight years of experience and progress under our belt — including publishing gender assessments and action plans for Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana in 2014 and a progress update the following year —now is the right time for an independent evaluation. Earlier this year, we commissioned CARE International to review the current role of women in the value chain. The results confirmed that empowering women is critical to achieving our objective of transforming our cocoa supply chain.

"Cocoa farming is viewed as a male activity in most countries. But, in reality, it’s the women who do a lot of the work that’s critical to the quality of the final product. This research highlights the importance of strengthening women’s leadership, so that they can participate equitably in the cocoa value chain and earn a sustainable income, whilst simultaneously strengthening the value chain."

Tom Sessions, Head of Strategic Partnerships, CARE International

Women are change agents. When we invest in women, the overall cocoa industry thrives as well as local communities. That was always our theory, and it’s coming through loud and clear in the CARE report. For example, the report highlights how Cocoa Life has impacted productivity: Women from three communities included in the report say that their cocoa yields have doubled because of training in Good Agricultural Practices. Access to finance through Village Savings & Loans Associations has allowed them to invest in not only their farms, but also in their children’s education.

One of the most successful initiatives is the Women’s Extension Volunteers in Ghana, where women provide support and training to other women. This results in a community of infectious leadership among women. Our plan is to scale up so that we have a female leader in every community where we work.

With recommendations from the CARE report, we now have more tangible action plans for how to move forward. Today, we publish our expanded strategy for women’s empowerment. It shows how Cocoa Life will implement more actions to empower women in each of the five focus areas, more consistently and at scale. A steering team comprised of experts in the field will oversee these efforts.

"As an implementing partner, I’ve witnessed how training women in Good Agricultural Practices, the business of farming, and group management mobilizes them to become confident role models. The CARE report reinforces how empowering women is a catalyst for change in cocoa-growing communities, so I am excited by Cocoa Life’s renewed commitment to its programming."

Rose Mensah-Kutin, Ph.D., Director, West Africa Regional Office, ABANTU for Development

From leadership to the farm level, cocoa is a male-dominated crop. We’re still in the early days of recognizing the critical role that women play. There’s a tremendous amount of work to do, but it’s encouraging to see that we’re on the right track.

Read more:

CARE international assessment on Cocoa Life’s women’s empowerment