EMPOWERING WOMEN for more sustainable cocoa communities

Women are a catalyst for change and are essential for cocoa-growing communities to thrive. Empowering them on an individual, household and community level strengthens the impact we have with Cocoa Life. We believe gender equality benefits everyone. That’s why promoting women’s empowerment is one of the principles of our program and caries throughout our work across our three key intervention areas.

womens empowerment icon
The Issue
Gender Inequality
womens meeting

Striking gaps between women and men exist in cocoa-growing communities:

  • Lower incomes: Female cocoa farmers earn 25%-30% less than male farmers in Ghana and up to 70% less in Côte d'Ivoire
  • Less access to training: Women often struggle to access the training and education that will help them understand how to improve their own situation and gain empowerment and autonomy in affairs at home and in their community.
  • Lower economic empowerment: Women typically face greater challenges than men in achieving economic empowerment and sustainable livelihoods. This includes obstacles around accessing finance, farm inputs, and participating in farming collectives and cooperatives.
  • Less land ownership: 40% of the work on cocoa farms is done by women, yet they only own 2% of the land and are excluded from group training sessions, according to research
  • Decision-making power: Women often lack a voice in decision-making at the household, community, district and national level, and are often underrepresented in leadership positions. Women often are denied the right to decide when and how to overcome the challenges they face.

A vital role in sustainable communities

Women play a vital role in cocoa farming but often go unrecognized. Women cultivate change in their communities, on the farm and with their children. Here's what we've seen:

  • Women contribute beyond cocoa; they cultivate other crops for domestic consumption, such as yam, cocoyam, cassava and plantains
  • There is a strong correlation between women's empowerment, education and child development
  • Increasing women's involvement and voice in decision making leads to more sustainable communities

Our Strategy
community village woman

Women’s empowerment is critical. We are deliberate about investing in women because it creates an impact that echoes throughout their communities. Following our global strategy, we have women’s empowerment action plans in place for Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Indonesia and the Dominican Republic, which have been developed based on learnings from our on-the-ground experience, as well as insights from international and in-country partners.

The action plans set out how we are planning to empower more women. That means helping them run more successful farms; take a more active role in community decision making; give their children a quality education; make cocoa farming more attractive for young people; become more entrepreneurial; and protect their environment. By empowering women, we’re helping to ensure the sustainability of our most important ingredient.

Here are some concrete actions we are taking:

  • Increasing women's access to farm inputs, land ownership and membership in farmer organization
  • Promote leadership positions for women as part of the Community Development Committees and Community Action Plan processes including a target of 30% of women representatives in the process
  • Aiming to ensure participation of 50% of young women (age 15+) in youth-oriented programming
  • Helping women improve their livelihoods through access to finance, entrepreneurial skills and more

"Cocoa Life's Women Empowerment plans are unique in that they are developed from the bottom up. An intentional effort is made to engage with women, men, boys and girls as the basis for developing the plans. I have seen a change among women in cocoa growing communities in Ghana, and noticed that women feel safer and more welcome to speak out. More men in these communities are speaking up for the participation and recognition of women, and I’m proud to be involved in such a program."

Dr Rose Mensah-Kutin, Director, ABANTU for Development

Where we are today
community village woman

Cocoa Life’s programs are premised on helping to empower women in cocoa communities as it can support enhanced management of family finances, more children attending school, increased income from sources other than cocoa and more sustainable, thriving communities. We work tirelessly to seek impactful solutions with existing and new partners to help bring benefits to cocoa-growing communities through women’s empowerment.

So far, we have impacted women in 2,597 cocoa communities, and specifically 45,656 female farmers. We have enabled women to gain greater access to and control over both household and productive resources, strengthened their ability to lead their community and have their voices heard, resulting in positive returns for women and their communities. The program provides 112,505 women annually with access to finance to fund education and encourage entrepreneurship, to give them a voice and unlock their potential. An additional 232,308 community members have trained on gender awareness by the end of 2021, in gender awareness to change perceptions, attitudes and behaviors, to help address gender inequalities.

Access to finance

Financial security tends to be out of reach for cocoa farmers, especially women. This is often due to their low, unstable incomes and lack of access to banking services. Cocoa Life partners with CARE International and other NGOs to provide Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) as a resource for cocoa communities in all our origin countries. As part of a VSLA, people can save money together and take small loans from those savings.

Overall, VSLAs help communities thrive. In addition to strengthening their savings culture, financial literacy and management skills, they are a key driver to empowering women economically. 70% of VSLA participants are women. Many choose to invest in their farms, as well as their children’s education.


In partnership with Impactum and CARE International, Cocoa Life is working on a pilot project for women in the Nawa region of Côte d'Ivoire, helping them build their livelihoods while preserving the environment. Women often feel the effects of climate change most immediately, as they tend to be in charge of their household’s food security. Climate change makes it increasingly difficult for women to have access to water, food, firewood and medicinal plants.

We connected six women-led VSLAs to three tree nurseries. We supply these women with seedlings for timber and food trees, which can later provide shade to help cocoa trees thrive. The women are trained on tree production techniques and manage the nurseries. Once the seedlings are grown, those plants can be sold, and the proceeds flow back into the VSLAs.