Magnum ice cream women’s empowerment initiative marks World Cocoa and Chocolate Day

Magnum Ice cream has expanded its AWA female empowerment initiative for key supply chains farming communities in Ivory Coast, ahead of this year’s World Cocoa and Chocolate Day on 1 October, reports Neill Barston.

Notably, the Unilever-owned brand has now been joined by Barry Callebaut in its venture, which this year is anticipated to assist more than 3,000 women, and forms part of major investment over the past three years. The company has now set its sights on increasing that figure to 5,000 by 2025, as part of its wider package of support for agricultural workers within West Africa.

As the company revealed, since 2012, the business has placed €80M into making its cocoa supply sustainable, including the traceability and segregation of its bean supplies, and this work forms part of a further investment of €25M to fund its wider cocoa impact programmes.

AWA by Magnum was established in 2020 with cocoa supply chain partner Cargill and NGO partners 100Weeks and Care, to help women in cocoa farming communities with the skills and funding through direct mobile payments and social infrastructure of Village Saving and Loans Associations (VSLAs) to set up their own or shared Income Generating Activities (IGAs).

This year Barry Callebaut joins AWA by Magnum, meaning the programme will expand to reach over 3,000 women. In total, the AWA programme will work with 117 VSLAs, with 96 added in 2023. Through the 96 new VLSAs the programme will reach an additional 2,400 women this year, with an average of 25 women per VSLA.

As the company explained, while the work with the brand’s pioneer partner Cargill continues; new partner, Barry Callebaut will work with Magnum and the NGO partners to evolve and upscale the AWA programme further. This is through activities such as the introduction of time saving innovations which enable cocoa farming households to carry out tasks more efficiently – such as providing them with off–grid washing machines that speed up the process of cleaning clothes – meaning they can spend more time developing their own income streams,

Furthermore, beyond fostering an environment of enabling women to thrive socially through establishing themselves independently, the scheme helps expand their own Income Generating Activities (IGAs). Women in the programme have shared that they have greater levels of self-confidence, leading to greater engagement of women in the community while also improving their relationships within their household. This is made possible through support from our cocoa supply chain partners, who work closely with NGOs, Care International and 100WEEKS to provide women in cocoa farming with the education and support to set up or invest in their own business.

Consequently, as the team behind Magnum acknowledged, supporting women in cocoa communities is of vital importance, and in providing a holistic programme, the women are taught how to run a business alongside, but not limited to, literacy, numeracy and life skills that they can pass onto their children, spouses and friends.

Rosie Festus, Global Brand Manager and AWA Programme Lead, comments: “We are delighted that the AWA by Magnum programme has been expanding at such a great pace this year. Having visited the programme in the Côte d’Ivoire and seen it evolve over time, it’s incredible to see how much the women on the programme have not only grown their businesses and investment opportunities, but also on a personal level too.

“Women in the communities really are inspiring the generations to come through their businesses. We have heard from the villages that women are now able to send their children to school and university as a result of their income generating activities, which was not achievable before.

“The education-first approach teaches women skills for life that she can pass onto her family, friends and beyond. AWA also helps women prosper in income generating activities outside of the cocoa farming season. This has been achieved by setting up direct cash transfers and helping to establish long-term community-based lending structures to financially stabilise their families and build their personal business ambitions. We are so proud of the progress so far and know there is so much more to come for AWA by Magnum.”

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