Gender Empowerment in the project ‘Sustainable and high-quality cocoa production for the cooperative yeyasso’

In November 2020, Galler, Enabel, Yeyasso, Ghent University, Fairtrade and ZOTO have started the implementation of a Beyond Chocolate sustainability project in the Tonkpi region of Côte d’Ivoire. The goal of the project? Achieving a living income for 150 farmers of the Yeyasso cooperative, while also enhancing women’s participation in the economic development of the region. On this international women’s day, Beyond Chocolate is diving deeper into the gender approach of the project with Vicente Balseca Hernandez (Ethical & Sustainability project manager, Galler) and Barbara Goffin (Business Development Officer at Fairtrade Belgium).


What are the major challenges women are facing in the project region and what is the project doing to increase women empowerment?


Vicente: “While women in the region are often involved in subsistence farming, they are generally excluded from more profitable activities and face challenges related to land property. This leaves them more vulnerable to poverty and poor working conditions. To counter this trend, the project will include women in diversification activities. As such, the project will install small-size poultry coops for the production of food and organic fertilizer and will integrate women in the management of these coops. The poultry coops will also be a “market” for the sale of corn produced by the women. In this way, we hope to considerably increase the income of women in the community. We will also make sure to track our progress by collecting gender sensitive data on income increases via the Farm Record Tool developed by Fairtrade International.”


How is Fairtrade involved in the gender approach of the project?


bringing a shift in the broader culture to truly envision women as leaders often requires change within individuals

Barbara: “The Yeyasso cooperative is Fairtrade certified, which means it has to respect the Fairtrade standards including requirements on gender equality. Furthermore, the cooperative is planned to take part in the Women’s School of Leadership Program developed by Fairtrade Africa. This program brings women cocoa farmers together for a year of training and mentorship on topics of human rights and gender equality, as well as financial management, negotiation, and income diversification project development. The program reasons that although standards can set an essential framework for non-discrimination, bringing a shift in the broader culture to truly envision women as leaders often requires change within individuals. Given the opportunity to have a stronger voice in their families, cooperatives and communities, women are in a better position to take up leadership roles and contribute to the economy and society – and realize their own value.”


What are possible risks you need to take into account when implementing activities on women empowerment?


Vicente: “You need to be careful not to upset too much the local traditions and organisational habits. What we are doing is starting a process of empowerment of the communities which will take time and effort. The risk would be to want to go too fast or exclude the men, which would create resistance and conflict.”

What we are doing is starting a process of empowerment of the communities which will take time and effort.

Barbara: “Indeed, we cannot exclude men from the efforts we are taking in the field of gender equality. That is why there is always also a selection of men taking part in the Women School of Leadership Program.”


What can Beyond Chocolate and its partners do to increase the social conditions of female cocoa farmers?


Vicente: “I think the chocolate sector at large should include women in sustainability projects and programs and empower them to take their future into their own hands, organise themselves and take up a more important place within their own community. In doing so, we must always take into account both the specific needs of women, as well as the local traditions.”

Barbara: “Exactly, and from Beyond Chocolate’s side, support in the communication of such programs and the raising of awareness on the challenges of gender issues are important factors.