Mondelēz rolls out gender equality plan for cocoa sector

By Nicola Cottam

- Last updated on GMT

Women small-scale farmers in Africa own just 1% of agricultural land, but make up 60% of the global agricultural workforce. Photo credit:George Osodi - Panos for Oxfam America
Women small-scale farmers in Africa own just 1% of agricultural land, but make up 60% of the global agricultural workforce. Photo credit:George Osodi - Panos for Oxfam America

Related tags Cocoa life Ghana

Mondelēz International has announced plans to roll-out its Cocoa Life sustainability program in Cote d’Ivoire to improve the rights of female cocoa workers in the region.

The $400m 10-year program was launched in Ghana in 2012 to promote gender equality in cocoa production through training, greater financial support and tailored interventions to address gender gaps. A further pilot scheme launched in Cote D’Ivoire last June following the success of the Ghana project at increasing farmers productivity and income.

Addressing inequalities

Mondelēz sustainability director, Jonathan Horrell said: “The action plan is designed to address inequalities in income, access to finance and the decision-making process, and in particular to increase women’s participation in all these areas.

“There will be continuous assessment to track the impact of the actions to set a clear agenda over the next 10 years. We want to see communities defining their own goals and developing actions to improve community life.”

Oxfam fallout

Mondelēz was coerced into action last year following similar commitments from rivals Nestle and Mars and criticism from Oxfam about its unsatisfactory response to the charity’s audit, which highlighted poor wages and institutional discrimination of female cocoa workers.

This latest action plan, which also includes an extension to the Cocoa Life program in Ghana, is in response to a third-party assessment by Harvard University and CARE International that identified significant gaps in income and opportunities for female cocoa workers.

Bridging equality gap

Report author Michael J Hiscox, Professor of International Affairs at Harvard University said: “The clear implication is that Cocoa Life program interventions that effectively address gender gaps in farmer training and access to finance could have large positive impacts on productivity and income levels for female farmers and sharply reduce gender inequality in the sector.”

The assessment found significant discrimination in Ghana where women have restricted access to crucial farming aids, like fertilizers, and financial loans, and have 25% less training than men. Women also earn approximately 25-30% less than male counterparts.

Women’s rights

In Cote d’Ivoire, research carried out by CARE International found that of the 4% of women in cocoa co-operatives, almost none were in leadership positions and while 86% of male workers had legal rights to their plots, only 33% of women had similar rights. Average female earnings in the region are 70% less than men.

Mondelez’s vice president of external affairs and Cocoa Life, Christine M McGrath added: “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, our two largest cocoa origins.”

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