Research by Professor Stephanie Barrientos guides new strategy on women’s empowerment in cocoa communities

1 November 2016

Mondelēz International has published a new and expanded strategy for promoting women’s empowerment in cocoa supply chains, which draws heavily on GDI research.

Research undertaken by Professor Barrientos has a long history of achieving real impact. In 2008, her work was pivotal in persuading Cadbury to invest £45 million in sourcing fair trade cocoa and launching the Cadbury Cocoa Partnership, the predecessor of the Cocoa Life programme (launched by Mondelēz International in 2012 after it acquired Cadbury).

Professor Barrientos has continued to engage with the Cocoa Life programme and her latest research paper is extensively cited in the new Mondelēz strategy on promoting women’s empowerment within the cocoa supply chain. The strategy follows a report by CARE International on emerging best practices of women’s leadership within cocoa farming in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. CARE’s report notes that research conducted by Professor Barrientos has already greatly influenced the overall strategy of the Cocoa Life programme.

Cocoa production is being outpaced by demand for chocolate, so much so that unless cocoa productivity and quality can be improved, experts predict there may be a global one million ton shortage of cocoa by 2020. Most cocoa is grown in West Africa by smallholder farmers, and is considered to be a “male crop”, as only 25% of recognised cocoa farmers are female. This is a misconception, as research has shown women actually contribute up to 45% of labour inputs, often working on their husbands’ land as unpaid family labour. Research by Professor Barrientos demonstrates that promoting women’s empowerment throughout the cocoa-chocolate supply chain is not only the “right thing” to do for gender equality, but also key for chocolate confectioners to ensure the future resilience and improved quality of cocoa production.

“Women’s economic empowerment enhances their rights and incomes, increases resources devoted to the education and health of their children, and builds more resilient cocoa farming communities. Companies and organisations throughout the cocoa-chocolate value chain have a role to play in promoting gender equality at every level,” said Professor Barrientos, “This is critical to the future of cocoa production and achieving the sustainable development goals more broadly.”

In the recently published GDI Working Paper: Promoting Gender Equality in the Cocoa-Chocolate Value Chain: Opportunities and Challenges in Ghana, which studied two facets of the Cocoa Life programme, Professor Barrientos and Adwoa  Owusuaa Bobie outline eight recommendations to enhance gender equality in the cocoa-chocolate value chain, which Mondelēz has incorporated into their new strategy:

  1. Cocoa-chocolate value chain: All companies and organisations in the cocoa-chocolate value chain need a clear strategy and reporting on gender equality both within their own organisations and along their supply chains.
  2. Recognition of women in cocoa: Better recognition, support and incentives to source from women as producers in cocoa production independent of their land tenure status.
  3. Cooperative unions and small producer organisations: Women need better access to cooperative unions and small producer organisations as cocoa producers, independent of recognised land tenure status.
  4. Land rights and information: Greater information and training on women’s legal land rights. Better implementation of government regulation on land rights, which are often not observed. Greater encouragement of land gifting by male farmers to their spouses engaged in production.
  5. Training: Training sessions should be open to all those engaged in cocoa production and where possible provided at community level to ensure women are able to participate. More women trainers and gender sensitivity training for male trainers are needed.
  6. Extension: Support needs to be provided to both women and men engaged in cocoa production. More women extension offers are needed with more support to reach all farmers. Women extension volunteers need better support, and compensation for their input.
  7. Public governance: Public bodies need to have clearer strategies for promoting gender equality in cocoa. Clearer channels are needed to provide community input into district and national policy formulation. Greater alignment between public policy and commercial strategies is needed to promote gender equality.
  8. Linking commercial and social support: Men and women engaged in cocoa farming need to reap better rewards for their efforts that take account of gender differentiated needs. Promoting gender equality needs to be made a priority if cocoa farming is to be attractive to future generations


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