by Rudolf Scheffer, Private Sector Advisor
I’ve worked for Oxfam in the cocoa sector for many years, and I’ve seen a lot change over the years. Women's rights used to be about gender relationships in people's homes, it was about women getting to vote, girl children going to school and it was about, stopping violence against women and girls. Today it's about all of those things and more. Today we are starting to realise that through supporting women farmers and through giving women farmers the same opportunities as men we can support whole farming communities.
Did you know that women in cocoa producing communities work at home and in the field 20 hours per week more than men? This heavy workload is one of the major constraints in efforts to raise productivity and household incomes. Many of the current efforts to improve agricultural practices in cocoa (pruning, soil conservation, disease control, better fermentation and drying) only add to the work burden of women. And did you know that although women do most of the work in agriculture, they receive less training than men, less credit and other forms of support, and have little control over their land which they till? Not to mention they are paid less than men. In Cote d’Ivoire, 68% of cocoa workers are women, yet they only earn 21% of the income.
The good news is, in several recent meetings, I’ve heard companies and governments beginning to stress the importance of investing in and giving more rights to women cocoa farmers. And today, we have made it a little easier for them to do so by releasing a best practices report, which clearly outlines how companies in the cocoa sector can empower women in their supply chain.
Investing in women cocoa farmers is not only the right thing to do but it also makes good business sense. Experience shows that when women farmers get the same chances as men they often produce higher quality crops, and when women have control over their own income or family earnings, they tend to re-invest their income in families, children and communities, increasing well-being and the sustainability of not only the local economy but of whole cocoa-growing communities.
So investing in women cocoa farmers is better for the people and the business - what are companies waiting for?