To mark World Chocolate Day on July 7, British food chain the Co-op is pushing to inspire a generation of female farmers to fight gender stereotypes in West Africa’s Fairtrade producer organisations.
The Co-op directly supports the funding of Fairtrade Africa’s Women’s Leadership School project, working with women from farmer groups in Cote D’Ivoire to empower them as future leaders.
Farmers who benefit from the School are trained in business skills such as decision making, resource management and leadership and human rights.
According to the Co-op many of the new generation of female farmers still face legal, social and cultural barriers to participate in the cocoa industry and their own small producer organisations.
As a result, the younger generation are choosing to move away from cocoa farms to the city in search of a more dependable livelihood, it said in a statement.
The Co-op has sourced cocoa for almost 20 years from Kuapa Kokoo, a producer organisation that works to ensure female cocoa farmers have access to training and resources. The Kuapa Kokoo farmers choose how to invest in improving clean water, healthcare, sanitation and training.
Known on the British high street for becoming the first supermarket to sell Fairtrade labelled chocolate - and as the first retailer in the world to launch an own brand Fairtrade chocolate bar, the Co-op has established a history of working to readdress the imbalance in the cocoa industry and its underlying issues.
Brad Hill, Co-op’s Fairtrade strategy manager, said: “We have been championing Fairtrade cocoa in Co-op products for almost 20 years so consumers know they’re helping communities in developing countries to get a fair deal.
“The UK is the world's biggest Fairtrade market and the world’s fourth biggest consumer of chocolate and this demand for cocoa is only set to rise. It’s imperative that we keep moving forward with sustainability initiatives in order to shape this industry and we must help to improve the lives of farming communities who are still suffering a raw deal.”
Paul Chandler, a non-executive director of the Co-op and former CEO of Traidcraft said: “Empowering women in the workplace and creating more employment for women have long been an integral part of fair trade. There is no doubt that it is often through strengthening the role of women that the most sustainable long-term benefits are provided to communities. The 19th century founders of the co-operative movement recognised this from the outset and gave women opportunities and voting power at a time when this was rare in British society.
“It is exciting, welcome and strategically important that Co-op is focusing on this aspect of our impact within our cocoa supply chains.”