Divine directly invests in farmer support and development programmes that focus on education, training, land rights, and, especially, women’s economic empowerment. Women cocoa farmers form an essential part of the cocoa supply chain’s workforce, and yet their work is often unrecognised and undervalued. At Divine, we always take a gender inclusive lens in programme design. Maximising women’s opportunity to flourish leads to better outcomes for communities and businesses. Examples of these projects include Adult Literacy and Numeracy in partnership with KuapaKokoo Co-operative in Ghana, and a Gender Justice programme co-designed with Cooperativa de Exportação de Cacao de Qualidade (CECAQ-11) in Sao Tome.To date, Divine Chocolate has invested over £2m in these Producer Support and Development programmes and projects.
At KuapaKokoo, encouragement and mentoring of women has always been a priority. Thousands of women have learned income generating skills that help bring money into the family during the off-season (when there is no cocoa to sell). About a third of KuapaKokoo’s membership of over 100,000 farmers are women. However, while many women have now risen to positions at national level within the organisation, the proportion of women members is not yet reflected in the elected roles that farmers can contest. A survey suggests a contributing factor to this gap is differing levels of literacy between men and women.
We piloted our first Adult Literacy and Numeracy Programme with Kuapa Kokoo in 2014. Our aim is to increase basic literacy and numeracy skills, particularly among women, to support empowerment and engagement.Classes run throughout the year for two hours, three times a week and have been positively received by learners.
Simply learning to write your name enables you to sign for things, and record transactions. Learning to recognise and read a few local and common words is a step forward in negotiating your way around your world.Lydia Dufie in Sikaman says “Now I can see which bus I need to take me home”.
Numeracy skills enable better financial management of cocoa farms, households and incomes. Comfort Opoku at KuapaKokoo says “Now I can read and write, this has really boosted my confidence, and if I go to sell my cocoa, I am able to read the scale by myself.”
We look to continuously improve this programme and recently, following group feedback, extended the course duration from 5 to 9 months. This provides more time to deliver the course and support the participants in their learning journey. These literacy and numeracy classes are due to be rolled out across the Kuapa Kokoo membership in order to extend its reach and further its impact.
In partnership with CECAQ-11 in São Tomé, Divine has co-designed a Gender Justice programme to create an enabling environment for women cocoa farmers by raising access to resources and training. The programme includes workshops to increase awareness of women’s work, including unpaid work, with the goal of challenging social norms that undervalue their contribution to their family and community.
Ngoleagorbu Cocoa Farmers’ Union (NGOCFU) is a cooperative of cocoa farmers living on the edge of the Gola Rainforest in Sierra Leone, one of the last remaining fragments of West Africa’s ancient rainforest. Since 2018, Divine has been working with NGOCFU to develop the criteria and practices for a Forest-Friendly Cocoa Vision. Whilst preserving the ancient forest is at the forefront of conversations, we understand none of this can be achieved without a gender focus, particularly as women are the key to managing resources.
Lucia Mansaray, Chairperson of the Fairtrade Premium Committee at Ngoleagorbu. and a Guardian of the Gola Rainforest says, “Since the cooperative was formed, women now take part in leadership roles and have key responsibilities. We feel more empowered in our community.” She also adds, “Now there are women buying officers. That would never happen before.”