Sustainability

Fairtrade Fortnight launches with fresh report on exploitation experienced by women cocoa farmers

By Anthony Myers contact

- Last updated on GMT

The Fairtrade report, ‘Chocolate’s Invisible Women,’ highlights how large numbers of women farmers face an even worse situation than their male counterparts. Pic; Fairtrade
The Fairtrade report, ‘Chocolate’s Invisible Women,’ highlights how large numbers of women farmers face an even worse situation than their male counterparts. Pic; Fairtrade

Related tags: Fair trade, Cocoa

New data shows women could be struggling on just 23p (29c) a day, well below the extreme poverty line of £1.40 ($1.81) and organisation calls on government and chocolate companies to join the Alliance on Living Incomes in Cocoa, a new international initiative.

A report released at the start of Fairtrade Fortnight (24 February - 8 March) has revealed data that shows women working on cocoa farms in West Africa could be struggling on just 23p a day, well below the extreme poverty line of £1.40.

The organisation says it is calling on the UK government and chocolate companies to join the Alliance on Living Incomes in Cocoa, a new international initiative that outlines the positive developments towards achieving living incomes in cocoa, including the growing momentum for change in the chocolate world and Fairtrade’s interventions on the ground.

Fairtrade Fortnight also marks the second year of its She Deserves a Living Income campaign and has commissioned new research into women farmers, who make up two thirds of the labour force. The report, ‘Chocolate’s Invisible Women,’ highlights how large numbers of women farmers face an even worse situation than their male counterparts, especially those groups who are completely ‘invisible’ to market, research, and policy actors.

For Fairtrade Fortnight 2020, a panel of guest speakers, including a female cocoa farmer from Côte d’Ivoire, will share inspirational stories about the importance of women taking leading roles in business and society. These events are free and will take place across the UK​.

Far from being a ‘male crop’ where men do all the ‘hard work’ as commonly depicted, women’s labour is crucial for cocoa production, says Fairtrade. ‘Male farmers are able to intensify their cocoa farming, and expand and upgrade as farmers, because they rely on women (single or multiple wives, sisters, daughters, other younger women in their care) growing food crops and doing the household work, while also undertaking certain cocoa farming tasks’.

Fairtrade argues that women do the lion’s share of the work in cocoa (68%), but see little return – from weeding and preparing the land; planting cocoa seedlings; caring for young trees and intercropping of food crops; harvesting and plucking; pod breaking; fermenting and drying, and bagging the dried beans. ‘In fact, there are few tasks which are mostly undertaken by men alone,' the report claims.

It takes two to grow cocoa, it’s a partnership crop that needs both the man and the woman to successfully see it through to harvest --  ​Louisa Cox, director of impact at the Fairtrade Foundation

Despite their central role in cocoa production, women face much more constraint than men, both as female land owners, and female labour providers, says Louisa Cox, director of impact at the Fairtrade Foundation: “It takes two to grow cocoa, it’s a partnership crop that needs both the man and the woman to successfully see it through to harvest. Yet often the woman does two thirds of the work for less than a third of the income, meaning a bitter taste to the sweet treat​.

If the cocoa industry is serious about a long term sustainable future for their business, then they must truly sweeten the deal and invest more in the women behind our chocolate​.”

Approximately 60% of the world’s cocoa beans are grown in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana by approximately two million smallholder farmers. According to Fairtrade, a typical cocoa farmer in those countries earns under 75p a day, well below the extreme poverty line of $1.90 (about £1.40) per day, meaning they are often unable to put food on the table or buy medicine if they fall sick – and new figures reveal that women earn on average just 23p per day.

With only 10 years left, the ambitious goals and targets to end poverty, support small-scale farmers and decent work for all enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goals will not be met unless urgent action is taken to support these invisible women. It’s high time we stood side by side with these invisible women and call time on the gender pay gap in chocolate​,” says Cox.

The report outlines the positive developments towards achieving living incomes in cocoa this year, including the growing momentum for change in the chocolate world and Fairtrade’s interventions on the ground, including Fairtrade’s West Africa Cocoa Programme and its Women’s School of Leadership, which aims to empower women and increase women’s leadership in Fairtrade Co-operatives.

Fairtrade action plan

'We call on the government to show leadership':

•            Play a leadership role and join the Alliance on Living Incomes in Cocoa by the end of 2020

•            Support Human Rights Due Diligence legislation in Cocoa

•            Make sure that interventions on the ground reach women

'We call on the chocolate companies, traders and supermarkets to':

•            Join the Alliance on Living Incomes in Cocoa

•            Support Human Rights Due Diligence legislation in Cocoa

•            Design and implement gender sensitive programmes to help enhance economic empowerment of women cocoa farmers

•            Commit to sourcing cocoa on Fairtrade terms

•            Commit to paying cocoa farmers a living income by 2030