Oxfam America has launched a campaign to encourage the top three chocolate companies in the world to treat the women who grow and pick the cocoa better.
The petition directed at: Mars, Mondelez and Nestlé asks the companies to offer the women fairer treatment, opportunities for training, and the chance to own the land they work.
To celebrate a chocolate company that does offer its women farmers better opportunities, Oxfam America announced a partnership with Fairtrade chocolate company Divine, which works with many co-operatives, for International Women’s Day.
Erin Gorman, CEO of Divine Chocolate, described her experience of visiting the Kuapa Kokoo co-op in Ghana. She met Christiania Adulsei, a 58-year old cocoa farmer.
She explained: “Christiana, like so many women in cocoa, 'has it all' – all the household duties, the cooking, the cleaning, the farming of foodstuffs. They ensure children go to school and their health is looked after. They farm cocoa and do the drying and fermenting of beans.”
Christiana joined the co-op 11 years ago with her husband, when she realised they were democratic and fair and that farmers received bonuses and a cutlass, which is one of the most tools for cocoa farmers. Unlike many women in Africa, she is a member in her own right.
Eight years ago she started as the secretary to the village recorder, the person elected by the village society to purchase cocoa for Kuapa. She started training farmers to dry and ferment their cocoa properly so that it met Kuapa’s standards of good cocoa.
“I saw that I was a good teacher and that I could keep good records, and I decided that I should become a recorder myself,” Christiana said. At the elections she stood against the recorder, a man, and won. “Kuapa trained me that as a woman I could be a recorder and could be a leader in my society."
Despite having no women’s group in her village, Christiana and the other women in her village still benefit from women’s empowerment trainings offered by Kuapa’s Gender Programme.
The programme, set up in 1998, trains women to take part in co-operative leadership. They learn to generate additional income and can access loans through the local credit union.
The three-pronged approach of building women’s confidence, skills training, and access to credit has hugely shaped Kuapa. Today 30 percent of the members are women farmers and the president of the cooperative is a woman.
Erin added: “We have a long way to go to make policy and practices work for women in small-scale agricultural production. Members like Christiana show us why it’s important to start trying to do more.”