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Empowerment is key

Last week, I attended a conference in London which was hosted by Divine Chocolate to mark International Women’s Day, and what an inspiring day it was.

During the day, Divine focused on the issues facing women small scale farmers in food chains around the world and the latest work on addressing them.

The company also used the event to launch a report highlighting the initiatives taken by Divine and Kuapa Kokoo, the cocoa grower’s co-operative who own 44% of the chocolate company, with some business structures and initiatives that focus on empowering small holder women farmers in Ghana. The report, entitled Empowering the women cocoa farmers of Kuapa Kokoo, is a review of 20 years of learning and progress in addressing gender equality in the cocoa supply chain.

Divine CEO Sophi Tranchell MBE noted, “Smallholder farmers, who are crucial to the world’s food supplies, are at the mercy of markets, conflict and climate – and women, though they are often key to maintaining the quality, and therefore the value of the crops, fare particularly badly.”

By introducing quotas, 35% of Kuapa Kokoo’s membership are now women, it has had two elected women presidents, half its National Executive are women and women hold elected positions throughout the organisation, she explained. Playing its part, Divine also invests 2% of its turnover (over £2 million to date) in key projects – many of which benefit women, such as literacy and numeracy classes, as well as a radio programme.

The conference programme covered research in this field highlighted by cocoa supply chain expert Professor Stephanie Barrientos, the impact of Oxfam’s Behind the Brands campaign described by Erinch Sahan, the programmes the UK Department for International Development (DFID) is supporting to empower women presented by Melinda Bohannon, as well as examples of best practice from Hazel Culley of retailer Marks & Spencer.

Meanwhile, cocoa farmer Linda Berchie, a member of Kuapa Kokoo, gave her own personal experiences of the impact Fairtrade, and Kuapa and Divine’s initiatives have made on her life and lives of her fellow farmers.

Tranchell concluded, “I believe we have reached a tipping point in terms of the scale and consolidation of the movement for gender equality around the world – I want to see it happening faster than they are predicting.”

Click here to view the full report.

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