Women’s leadership in cocoa farming communities: CARE’s peer review of Mondelēz’s Cocoa Life programme

by 24th Nov 2016
A women's VSLA group beside a crop of cocoa beans laid out to dry A women's VSLA group beside a crop of cocoa beans laid out to dry

Women are very important stakeholders for the whole cocoa industry – not just as customers and consumers, but also because of their roles as cocoa producers. Although cocoa is seen as a “male crop” in most of the producing countries, women have a key role in activities that are critical for the volume and quality of the production. Nevertheless, the “invisibility” of women has serious consequences for their access to technical training and productive resources in general, which is unjust and also represents a huge inefficiency in business terms.

Following pioneering work by Stephanie Barrientos in 2008, Cadbury (which later became part of Mondelēz International) realised the importance of gender equality in its supply chain and in 2012 it designed the first version of a gender plan, which then evolved into a new more detailed version in 2014, and which is in the process of being continuously improved.

CARE has been working in partnership with Mondelēz International in the Cocoa Life programme since 2012 (and previously, since 2008, with Cadbury in the Cadbury Cocoa Partnership). The Cocoa Life programme aims to empower 200,000 cocoa farmers and reach one million community members in six key cocoa growing origins: Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Indonesia, India, the Dominican Republic and Brazil. Since the inception of the programme, CARE has supported the whole process of incorporating women’s economic empowerment, both from the standpoint of an implementing partner and from the standpoint of a strategic advisor. We helped shape the Gender Action plan in Côte d’Ivoire in 2014 and have just conducted a peer review process in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire culminated in the Women’s leadership in Cocoa Life communities report, co-published by CARE and Mondelēz International.

In the peer review, we assessed Cocoa Life against key industry standards like the Women’s Empowerment Principles and the more recent report by the UN High Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment. However, the main framework we used for the analysis was CARE’s Gender Equality Framework, which is designed to make sure that interventions have a truly transformative gender approach and to improve access and control over productive resources through:

  • Building agency: building confidence, self-esteem, knowledge, skills and capabilities.
  • Changing relations: influencing and transforming power relations between intimate partners and within households and social networks, including through group membership and activism, and citizen and market negotiations.
  • Transforming structures: challenging and transforming discriminatory societal norms, customs, exclusionary practices and laws, policies, procedures and services.

According to the assessment, gender has been deeply embedded and made cross-cutting across most of Cocoa Life’s interventions and the programme has had a very positive influence over women’s agency, through strengthening women’s skills in agriculture, financial literacy, leadership skills, and at the same time providing women with platforms to exercise their leadership in community-level governance committees and in cooperative societies.

Cocoa Life is also starting to influence social norms in gender relations through promoting new role models for men, women and youth that challenge the gender-based division of labour and traditional gender roles in general.

This is done through a variety of tools and methodologies at the household level, at the community level, at the private sector partners’ level, and influencing at the public sector level:

  • Effective training for female farmers including Good Agricultural Practices training and Village Savings and Loan Associations training
  • Increased women’s membership of Cooperative Societies
  • Role modeling women’s leadership through Women Extension Volunteers
  • Addressing land ownership for women through sensitisation at community level in Ghana and through the Community Development Committees in Côte d’Ivoire
  • Systematising women’s participation and leadership into community-level decision-making bodies
  • Driving change and women’s rights in the cocoa value chain through engagement with governments
  • The promotion of gender equality through gender dialogues in Cocoa Life communities, gender champions and working with couples
  • Enabling women to have greater control over their earnings through the successful implementation of the Village Savings and Loan Association model for financial literacy, financial inclusion and increased resilience of vulnerable groups

While these interventions have been effective, according to the assessment more needs to be done to address the root causes of gender inequality, at the relations level inside the household and at the more structural policy level. While the gender-based division of labour is starting to be challenged and new role models for women are emerging through their new leadership positions, time poverty continues to be a huge issue. Although awareness of the issue is growing, challenges remain in terms of decreasing and redistributing the work load. Better awareness also exists around gender-based violence, but more strategic actions need to be implemented. More research is needed around the actual influence and control that women have in leadership positions and also inside the household. More research also needs to be done around women’s paid labour and the pay gap. The issue of access to land continues to be a major barrier for women and needs to be tackled at the highest advocacy level.

CARE believes that partnering with a leading company in the food industry like Mondelēz around women’s economic empowerment has the potential to bring about large-scale changes for vulnerable women in the agriculture sector across the world. Although it is a long journey, full of challenges and learning opportunities along the way, achieving that should become an asset for the whole industry – not only for Mondelēz.

For more information see the full report Women’s leadership in Cocoa Life communities: Emerging best practices of women’s leadership within cocoa farming in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire

Gianluca Nardi

Gianluca worked in the Private Sector Engagement team and then the Women's Economic Empowerment team at CARE International UK from 2005 to 2017. Gianluca's main areas of expertise are market facilitation, women’s empowerment, micro-enterprise development, rural development, private sector engagement and working with extractive industries.

He has over 15 years experience working in various management and consultancy roles in Brazil, Nicaragua, Angola, Cambodia and Italy, in both the private sector and NGOs. He holds a Masters in International Development from the University of Ferrara, an ILO Diploma on Inclusive Market Facilitation, a diploma in Extractive Industries and Sustainable Development from the Catholic University of Lima, and a certificate from the Advanced Social Management Programme from the University of Cambridge and the University of Queensland CSRM.

One good thing I’ve read

Changing your company from the inside out: A guide for social intrapreneurs, by Gerald Davis and Christopher White. An inspiring guide to making big changes and a social impact by transforming large companies from the inside. It is fascinating to see the many similarities between social movements generating big societal changes and inspiring individuals doing the same in their own organizations.

Twitter: @gianlucabrasil