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Mondelez International has unveiled plans to help advance the rights of female cocoa farmers in two of the world’s largest cocoa-growing countries, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.

The action plans respond to third-party assessments by Harvard University and CARE International, which revealed striking gaps in income and opportunities for female cocoa farmers.

In Ghana, female cocoa farmers earn 25-30 per cent less than their male counterparts; in Côte d’Ivoire, women in cocoa communities earn up to 70 per cent less than men. And in both countries, women struggle with lower farm productivity, smaller farms and less access to financing and farm inputs.

“Gender equality benefits everyone and is essential if cocoa communities are to thrive,” said Christine M McGrath, Vice President of External Affairs and Cocoa Life. “These assessments underscore the size of the challenge we face in boosting female cocoa farmers’ incomes and advancing women’s rights in cocoa farming.

“This affirms our decision to promote gender equality as a cross-cutting theme when we first created Cocoa Life, and it bolsters our resolve to help lead the fight to eradicate this issue in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.”

In 2013, Mondelez International pledged to extend its reporting on gender rights in cocoa farming and apply a consistent approach to gender programmes in its origin markets, while advocating for industrywide action. The new third-party assessments on the status of women in cocoa communities were completed by Michael J Hiscox and Rebecca Goldstein of Harvard University for Ghana, and by CARE International for Côte d’Ivoire. Both are publicly available at .

In Ghana, the study indicates dramatic gender gaps beyond cocoa income and productivity: women have a 25 per cent lower level of training, a 20 per cent lower receipt of loans, and 30-40 per cent lower access to critical farm inputs such as fertilizer. The Ghana study found major levers for change are farmer training and access to finance, which are strong predictors of use of key inputs on farms, thus, improving productivity and income.

“The clear implication is that Cocoa Life programme interventions that effectively address gender gaps in farmer training and access to finance could have a positive impact on productivity and income levels for female farmers and sharply reduce gender inequality in the sector,” said Professor Hiscox, a professor of International Affairs at Harvard University.

In Côte d’Ivoire, CARE International affirmed the crucial role women play in the cocoa economy but found that there is much work to be done to achieve gender equality, because the starting point for women is so low.

For example, the research found that of the 4 per cent of women in cocoa co-ops, almost none are in leadership positions. On land ownership, the study found that 86 per cent of men had legal rights to their plots, while in 67 per cent of cases, the land accessed by women was not owned by them.

CARE International noted that, after one year of Cocoa Life’s gender-related interventions, there are “some tangible results” in the involvement of women in community-level leadership and financial inclusion. However, it said more needs to be done to deepen partners’ and stakeholders’ understanding of the challenges faced by women.

For more information see, the forthcoming July 2014 issue of Coffee & Cocoa International.

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