Challenges of Women Cocoa Farmers in West Africa
Entry: Bill Guyton
I read with interest the article below on the struggles of women cocoa farmers in West Africa. Land tenure and access to financing are major challenges, as described in the text. World Cocoa Foundation is working with our partner, the Sustainable Tree Crops Program (STCP) in Cote d'Ivoire, Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana and Liberia to support farmer field school programs for cocoa growing communities. One of the innovative efforts under the STCP is a project that is specifically designed to reach women cocoa farmers through "Video Viewing Clubs". For more information on the program, please visit the following link: Women Cocoa Farmers.
The coordinator for this program is Dr. Sonii David who has helped design and implement the program. We applaud her great work!
Photo: Sonii David (sitting far right) and a Farmer Field School group.
Ivory Coast Women Defy Taboos
November 07 2008 at 11:40AM
By Christophe Koffi
Boko - Once it was the exclusive preserve of men but not anymore: hundreds of women in Ivory Coast are ignoring patriarchal tradition and turning to the growing of cocoa.
According to Agathe Vanie, who founded an association of women growers in her village of Boko, the reason is simple: "the misery of women in the face of the financial wealth of the men who own cocoa plantations."
The association at Boko, which lies about 200 kilometres (120 miles) west of the capital Abidjan in the southern forest district of Divo, has grown to about 1 000 members since it was founded in 2005. It is the first - and thought to be the only one - of its kind in this west African country, finances its own costs and receives no state subsidies.
"Women cannot inherit or even create a cocoa plantation under our patriarch-dominated tradition," said Vanie, criticising what she called a "backwards and misogynist" practice.
"We decided, whatever it took, to go the women and allow them to have plots of land," said Vanie, whose country is the world's largest producer and exporter of cocoa, accounting for more than 40 percent of the world's cocoa production.
"I meet village chiefs and I explain to them that women can make a contribution to expenses that are increasingly heavy because of the cost of living and the price of food," she continued.
"To begin with the reply was brutal and final: 'No! A woman does not have the right to own a plantation and later give us orders'."
But Clementine Galo, in her 70s, managed to become a woman cocoa planter and is happy today to have been one of those who took up the challenge.
"I was abandoned by my husband and I have only the plantation to meet my needs and prepare for my final days," she said, standing by her trees, spread over two hectares (five acres), with their yellow pods of ripe beans.
Nearby her friend Henriette Gneza proudly showed off her 20 hectares (50 acres).
Last year she harvested 10 tons of beans and with the income paid school fees for her two children.
She could do even better this year, with prices of beans expected to rise.
The association also seeks to organise women into cooperatives to win new recruits to look after ageing plantations. But it is an uphill battle in this country of 20 million where despite women's increasingly active role in society, men still tend to make the decisions, head families and settle arguments.
"This activity gives them financial independence and lets them fight poverty in rural areas," said Antoine Anon Dokou from the association.
A report from the United Nations Development Programme found that the poverty level in Ivory Coast reached 43 percent of the population in 2007, three or four points up on the figure in 2002 when civil strife split the country.
Women in the countryside are often the hardest-hit.
Vanie's association wants to see her initiative copied and would like to launch a federation of women coffee and cocoa producers.
"Women have overcome their fear of men and difficulties in getting credit," said association treasurer Veronique Gopo.
"We are going out to win over our sisters in other regions."
"We talk about... the emancipation of women," said Boko village chief Pierre Gbaza Zohouri, who backs the project.
"In town you share household costs. Why not in the village?
"They have my blessing," he added with a hint of resignation. - Sapa-AFP