In the fall of 2020, Cargill, PUR Projet and Empow’her started the implementation of the project “Beyond Trees Towards Better Incomes for Cocoa Farmers”, co-financed under the Beyond Chocolate program. In line with the Beyond Chocolate end goals, the project seeks to halt deforestation and to improve rural livelihoods of cocoa farmers and their families. The project acknowledges that female and male farmers experience different opportunities and hurdles to access climate services and information in agricultural decision-making and that if gender dynamics are not addressed, this may lead to unintended consequences. On this international women’s day, Beyond Chocolate talked to Empow’her on the important role of women in the cocoa value chain and on how women in the area will benefit from the project activities.
©PUR Projet – Delphine Dekeister
How does increasing women’s empowerment help contribute to the wider project and Beyond Chocolate goals?
To reach the long-term impact objective, which is to simultaneously improve the income and living standards of cocoa farmers and their communities, and to end further deforestation for production of cocoa, it is crucial to consider the different contributions women and men make to the economic and sustainable development of their communities.
Indeed, at the heart of the success of this project lies the inclusive involvement of communities, particularly the women, who hold a unique position to address local needs differently, in terms of rural transformation and bettering livelihoods for all. They are key agents for driving economic growth, fighting hunger and lifting their own communities out of poverty.
Rural women are facing a considerable number of barriers even if they do aspire to more economic independence by starting their own business. In Cote d’Ivoire, men are traditionally considered the heads of families with decision-making power over income. While women contribute for an important part to cocoa production activities, they often don’t own land or do not directly secure incomes from cocoa. Women typically do not have the same opportunities and resources as men when it comes to creating and managing income-generating activities. To increase prospects for gender-equitable and sustainable outcomes, Cargill, PUR Projet and Empow’Her will focus on the relation between women and men in value chain interventions and include gender considerations in training curricula and direct farmer engagement strategies. Our commitment is also to support women in their participation in local economic life, through the development of their income-generating activity.
To increase prospects for gender-equitable and sustainable outcomes, Cargill, PUR Projet and Empow’Her will focus on the relation between women and men in value chain interventions and include gender considerations in training curricula and direct farmer engagement strategies.
Which activities does the project undertake to increase women’s independence and control over resources?
Through this project, we activate three levers of action to ensure women’s increased independence and control over resources:
- Developing dual track-based support programs targeting entrepreneurship as well as leadership capacities.
- Facilitating gender awareness within communities to ensure women’s empowerment.
- Bridging women’s gap to productive resources and other opportunities.
The project is designed to accelerate the launch, growth and success of up to 20 women’s led micro-enterprises through an array of business support resources and services, and to engage 100 women from community associations and women’s groups in an ideation phase to encourage them to initiate innovative and inclusive approaches to agroforestry activities. Empow’Her conducts ideation exercises with selected community groups and associations followed by a double incubation program that aims at helping women to give life to their project ideas, coaching them from the start to the development of their businesses.
To ensure that these activities are supported by the local communities, we raise gender awareness among community leaders, cooperatives’ boards and husbands of women’s groups, who are members of cocoa cooperatives.
To ensure that these activities are supported by the local communities, we raise gender awareness among community leaders, cooperatives’ boards and husbands of women’s groups, who are members of cocoa cooperatives. During these workshops, we emphasize that when women earn and control the family income, it has a positive impact on the household and allows more money to be spent on food, health and education for families. Healthier and better educated families are good for the community as a whole. This avoids backlash and reinforces the understanding of men of the need for education for women.
©PUR Projet – Delphine Dekeister
What are according to you opportunities for women empowerment in the cocoa sector?
To us, the concept of empowerment invariably refers to the notion of power through economic and social independence. We are convinced that it is in economic dependence that all other dependencies of women take their source. In Côte d’Ivoire, the entrepreneurship sector has shown that it can be a powerful alternative for women facing the persistent barriers to entry into the labor market, or more precarious or less fulfilling employment options.
To us, the concept of empowerment invariably refers to the notion of power through economic and social independence.
Women face many barriers. when it comes to creating and sustaining their income-generating activities. In response, we provide women with capacity building and entrepreneurship training programs so that they can empower themselves through their projects. First of all, it brings the ability to ensure themselves a predictable and regular source of income, which allows them to anticipate, project themselves and act more independently. But also the possibility to have confidence in their potential and to participate in the decision-making process of their family, and more broadly to the society.
©PUR Projet – Delphine Dekeister
What are the lessons you have learned from previous projects related to implementing gender approaches and what are the possible risks you are foreseeing now during implementation?
In the four years of Empow’Her’s existence in Côte d’Ivoire, we have learned several lessons that can be interesting for other partners. First of all, I would advise others not to think of all phases of support as “simple” access to entrepreneurial education but as an opportunity to strengthen the agency power of the women beneficiaries. To do this, studying the needs and constraints of rural women beforehand is a prerequisite for the success of the training program. For instance, during our diagnostic we realized that women stop their activity when it comes to help their husband in their cocoa field, which allowed us to integrate a module on a common planification of the couple’s activities.
Studying the needs and constraints of rural women beforehand is a prerequisite for the success of the training program.
Secondly, we have found that in rural areas, women are very often organized in groups to help each other. We would advise to rely on this social configuration to strengthen the transfer of skills and knowledge between women leaders and women members.
Lastly, it is important to stress that the dependence and lack of support from the community and cooperatives in the development of women’s activities is a real hindrance. Most of the time, women have to ask their husbands for permission to access a marketplace or to participate in training. The implementation of more comprehensive awareness-raising activities among women and their communities makes it easier to achieve and sustain the desired results, especially in rural areas where socio-cultural norms are still strongly entrenched hinder women’s potential for economic and social development.
As we developed a holistic approach to women empowerment and witnessed how deeply rooted gender inequalities were, we understood how crucial it was to engage a broader spectrum of stakeholders and transform the entrepreneurship sector as a whole into a more inclusive ecosystem.
What can Beyond Chocolate as a multi-stakeholder partnership do to increase women empowerment?
Beyond Chocolate as a multi-stakeholder platform can help increase women’s empowerment by generating awareness on the importance of inclusive community engagement to help drive economic and sustainable development of the cocoa growing communities.
Beyond Chocolate as a platform allows for learning exchange on best practices. It helps to shape new connections and mobilize additional resources that can help test and scale proven solutions. “Beyond Trees” is an important example of how Beyond Chocolate allowed Cargill, PUR Projet and Empow’Her to engage more farmers and communities in creating economic opportunities from adoption of cocoa-agroforestry and off-farm reforestation.
Images ©PUR Projet – Delphine Dekeister