Editor’s Note: This post is a follow-up to TriplePundit’s recent #Women4Cocoa Twitter Chat with Mondelēz International, CARE International and Oxfam. In case you missed it, you can catch a recap here.
By Cathy Pieters (@CathyPieters), Cocoa Life Program Director, Mondelēz International
It is well-documented that women can be powerful change agents for themselves, their families and communities. This is increasingly seen in a range of sectors – including cocoa. Women are central to the well-being and sustainability of cocoa-growing communities and supply chain. To drive awareness around the critical role women play, Mondelēz International (@MDLZ) teamed up with CARE International (@careinuk), Oxfam (@OxfamAmerica) and TriplePundit for a Twitter Chat on November 3, 2016, discussing key challenges and issues faced by women, as well as ongoing efforts and best practices to strengthen women’s empowerment.
Our chat discussed the importance of partnership and collaborative programs, like Mondelēz International’s Cocoa Life, to transform the lives of women in cocoa communities. Cocoa Life is the global snack company’s holistic, third-party verified cocoa sustainability program. Mondelēz International partners with third-party organizations, like CARE, to assess and evaluate Cocoa Life’s efforts, focusing on women’s empowerment. Oxfam also provides guidance to Mondelēz International on best practices for addressing gender equality in the cocoa sector.
As a follow-up to the Twitter Chat, Cathy Pieters (@CathyPieters), Cocoa Life Program Director, shared further insights into Cocoa Life’s evolving approach and answered additional audience questions.
Q1: What is Cocoa Life and how is it working to improve the lives of women in cocoa communities?
Cathy Pieters: As the Director of Cocoa Life since 2012, I’ve seen firsthand the positive impact the program is having on cocoa farmers, including women farmers and their families. It’s the most satisfying aspect of my work.
On a recent trip to Côte d’Ivoire, one of the cocoa-growing origins where our program is based, I met women cocoa farmers from a Community Development Committee. They excitedly shared how the committee raised awareness and drove efforts to get more local girls into school. As a result, girls who had never attended school before were now doing so. Cocoa Life and our local partners provided an opportunity for these women to identify issues that mattered to them and work together to address them in their community.
In addition to firsthand stories like this, CARE recently published a new assessment of Cocoa Life’s women’s empowerment efforts across our five focus areas (farming, community, livelihoods, youth and environment) in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. It found Cocoa Life:
Q2 from @MiniFund: What kinds of economic growth are we seeing for women specifically in cocoa through your programs? #Women4Cocoa
Cathy Pieters: Women’s economic empowerment and gender equality are, first and foremost, basic human rights. Empowering women is not only the right thing to do – it’s also the smart thing to do for development, economic growth and business.
As mentioned above, the recent CARE International assessment found Cocoa Life increased cocoa yields by improving women’s access to farmer training and increased household incomes by improving women’s access to finance in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. This is important, as women’s economic empowerment enables greater agency and choice for women and boosts investment in children. Oxfam noted in a report “when women have control over their own income or family earnings, they reinvest in their families, children and communities, increasing the well-being and the sustainability of cocoa-growing communities.”
In our 2015 Progress Report, Janet Opare-Addo, a Cocoa Life Women’s Extension Volunteer, discussed how she works supporting 570 men and women in community development projects in communities throughout Ghana. This includes leading two Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLA). Janet shared that due to these trainings, women are empowered with the knowledge and skills to manage their cocoa farms and can access loans to help pay for labor. She has seen this translate into earning more money and increased confidence in women’s abilities as cocoa farmers.
Altogether, this creates a sustainable approach: when cocoa farms are thriving, communities are strong, women are empowered, children are educated and the next generation is inspired to stay in cocoa farming.
Q3 from @CourtGarrity: How does #CocoaLife encourage sustainable farming practices? #Women4Cocoa
Cathy Pieters: Cocoa Life helps farmers improve yields, invest in their farms, grow small businesses and earn higher incomes via the application of good agricultural practices. These are combined with better access to demonstration parcels and the distribution of improved planting material. Through Cocoa Life, farmers are able to expand their knowledge about new farming techniques and learn to master good agricultural practices.
We also focus on inspiring young adults to pursue cocoa farming in their own communities. By increasing access for youth to learn life skills, such as leadership development, financial literacy and business principles, we can empower them to build sustainable farming communities.
Read more about Cocoa Life’s farming efforts in this piece by Amadou Ouattara, a 52-year-old cocoa farmer and member of ECAM, a large cooperative of more than 900 farmers participating in the Cocoa Life program in Côte d'Ivoire.
Q4 from @Context_Group: How do you measure KPIs [key performance indicators] that influence Cocoa Life e.g. ecosystem maintenance & female advocacy? Do you know any specific numerical evaluations that are used? Is there somewhere I can find that information? #Women4Cocoa
Cathy Pieters: We work with independent evaluators to verify and measure Cocoa Life’s impact, with oversight from external advisers. The verification consists of an annual outcome assessment and three-yearly evaluations of our impact on cocoa farming communities against our 10 global key performance indicators (KPIs), which correspond to the program’s five focus areas. Our KPIs focus on women’s empowerment and disaggregate data by gender.