Women are a catalyst for change and are essential for cocoa-growing communities to thrive. Empowering them strengthens the impact we have in Cocoa Life communities. It benefits everyone. That’s why women’s empowerment is one of our three cross-cutting themes.

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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: Women have smaller farms and limited access to financing and farm inputs, so they struggle with lower farm productivity
  • 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

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 observed:

  • 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 leads to more sustainable communities

Our Strategy
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Investing in women is critical. We are deliberate about investing in these women because it creates an impact that echoes throughout their communities.

Here are some actions we are taking:

  • Increasing women's access to farm inputs, land ownership and membership in farmer groups or cooperative unions
  • Promoting leadership positions for women, ensuring equal representation and providing mentorship
  • Ensuring 50% of young women (age 15+) participate in youth-oriented programming
  • Helping women improve their livelihoods through access to finance, entrepreneurial skills and more

"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."

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

Where we are today
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When Cocoa Life invests in women, the overall cocoa industry and its local communities thrive. We work tirelessly to integrate gender awareness among Cocoa Life program leaders at all levels―and it shows.

CARE International reported several benefits of Cocoa Life in Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire:

  • Increased cocoa yields (in some cases doubling) from giving women better access to training
  • Improved financial literacy, resilience and household incomes
  • Increased savings and therefore investments back into their farms and children's education
  • More active participation and decision-making at the community and national level
  • Mobilization of Women Extension Volunteers, who pass on their farmer training and skills learned through Cocoa Life to other women in the community

Benefits have also been observed in Indonesia. We’ll continue to use our learnings to ensure Cocoa Life is transformative to women across all six cocoa origin countries.

"Research shows that increasing women's involvement leads to improved financial management by farmers, better education of youth and more sustainable, thriving communities. This is why Cocoa Life promotes women's empowerment and has been working to increase their agency across the cocoa sector since 2008."

Margreet Groot, Lead, Women’s Empowerment, Cocoa Life, Mondelēz International

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 Ghana. 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 are very aware of the effects of climate change and are often the ones most affected by it, especially 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.

Six VSLAs, formed of women members, have been connected 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.


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