In many value chains women play a vital role through production, sales of cash crops, employment as workers and as traders and processors. At the same time, ex- perience shows us that often women suffer from fewer (economic) opportunities and are more vulnerable to exploitation. Women make up around 43% of the agricul- tural labor force in developing countries, and even more women are employed in agriculture globally (70% in South Asia, 60% in Sub-Saharan Africa). But fewer than 20% of the world’s landholders are women.

At IDH we aim to be gender sensitive throughout our organization, for which a range of activities (large and small) has been kickstarted in 2017. As gender is the youngest of the 5 impact themes at IDH, it is too early to draw conclusions of what works and what doesn’t work, however observations from our work till date inform us that:

  • Village Savings and Loan activities in the Malawian tea sector and Ivorian cocoa sector empower women to gain access to finance, and provide an opportuni- ty for (group) investments.
  • Opening up participation in trainings strengthens in- clusivity of both men and women, as opposed to the approach of having the landowner attending, which is often the male head of the household.
  • To further carve out specific roles between women and men on farm can have a positive effect on profit margins, and also tackle an issue such as post-har- vest losses.
  • More equal participation of men and women in field level projects often require active encouragement to involve women, as gender neutral approaches in the past have led to participation being overly male dominated.
  • Different approaches are required for integrating gender in agricultural production (plantations / large farms / smallholder farms) then in manufacturing.
In tea in Kenya the establishment of a safe space, a support system for survivors of GBV incidents, is new for IDH. This comes with challenges, like finding the right partners and forging local county government buy in.

Interventions show that more gender equality in decision-making and participation in farm activities are a key driver for more successful farming. In the Better Cotton Production Principles, gender is embedded as equal wages for work of equal value. This means that in 2017, close to 2 million BCI farmers received training and were verified having shown awareness and adherence to these principles. In Ethiopia, IDH’s work with flower farms has produced positive results: Gender Committees have been established, comprising 237 women and 60 men that have received training. 11,783 women and 2,327 men have received gender-based training through an outreach peer-to-peer education program resulting in improved gender balance and more empowered workers. In tea the Gender Empowerment Platform started 2 field level projects on tea plantations to address gender based violence and increase worker safety. The establishment of a safe space, a support system for survivors of gender based violence incidents, is new ground for IDH. This comes with challenges, e.g. finding the right partners and forging local county government buy in. In India, IDH supported a UNICEF partnership focused on making women less vulnerable and improving the livelihoods of community workers, have engaged with 33,000 girls in adolescent girls’ groups to promote (women) safety. Although companies acknowledge that gender is an issue that needs to be addressed, there is also a responsibility for the government in this, and it has proven to be difficult to leverage large scale private sec- tor investments on gender, if compared to for example environmental issues.

Further integrating gender is a journey. There is no one size fits all approach for the sectors IDH works in. Hence we prototype different approaches to see what works, where and what the levers of change are. Through internal awareness raising, support and scrutiny, IDH last year made a significant step towards effective integration of gender in its work.


  • SDG 5 Gender Equality
  • SDG 8 Decent work and economic growth
  • SDG 17 Partnerships for the goals

Focus areas

Select an option...
World map
Sectors: Flowers & Plants
Sectors: Apparel
Sectors: Apparel
Côte d’Ivoire
Sectors: Coffee
Sectors: Coffee

IDH convened IDH programs and gender experts to design this starting point to creating change in gender equality and empowerment.

A gender focus is required when working in global supply chains that often rely on women’s labor while structurally disadvantaging them. In the Ivorian cocoa sector, 68% of the labor force consists of women. They however rarely benefit from the training and extension services their male peers participate in. Not only do exclusionary practices in our value chains negatively affect the living conditions of the women in question, they also lower adoption rates of training and cost efficiency and have negative impact on productivity and supply across commodity sectors

Creating publications such as the Gender Toolkit is crucial in operationalizing solutions to achieve gender equality & empowerment. As an initial point of departure to address and integrate gender, the toolkit illuminates the problem of gender inequality through case studies in different commodities. For each case, the toolkit outlines how improving gender equality had a positive impact on business outcomes. In the same case in Ivory Coast, specific attention to the gendered division of roles in the supply chain and adapting training procedures to become more useful and accessible to women in- creased women’s access to training and subsequently worked to secure cocoa supply.