Female cocoa farmers earn on average just 23p per day © SIA KAMBOU/AFP/Getty Images
Female cocoa farmers earn on average just 23p per day © SIA KAMBOU/AFP/Getty Images

Women in cocoa supply chains 'see little return'

24 February 2020

Fairtrade is calling on buyers to eradicate poverty among cocoa farmers by committing to prices that ensure a ‘living income’.

The organisation wants famers to receive an income defined as “sufficient to afford a decent standard of living for all household members” by 2030 at the latest.

Fairtrade said cocoa farmers in Ghana earn an average $1 (75p) per day and those in Côte d’Ivoire earn less. This is against the extreme poverty line of $1.90 (£1.40) per day and the estimated living income of $2.50 (£1.86) for Côte d’Ivoire and $2.16 (£1.60) for Ghana. Fairtrade also said there was a gender pay gap among cocoa farmers, with women earning on average just 23p per day.

The plea comes as Fairtrade launches Fairtrade Fortnight with a report, The Invisible Women Behind our Chocolate, highlighting the plight of female farmers. Even though men also earn below the poverty line, it finds farms headed by women earn just one third of those headed by men.

The report said: “Women do the lion’s share of the work in cocoa (68%) – everything 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 – but they see little return.”

The report said female working hours exceeded those of men by nearly 30%.

Louisa Cox, director of impact at the Fairtrade Foundation said: “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.” 

She added: “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.”  

Fairtrade argued the UK needs to play a much larger part in balancing out gender pay in cocoa production, given consumers here eat more chocolate per head than any other country in Europe, creating a market worth £4bn each year.

The report also found that in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana (where 60% of all cocoa beans are grown) only 25% of women cocoa farmers own their land. On cocoa farms owned by male partners, women will not typically have the ‘passbook’ documentation needed to participate in farming and community-related decision-making.

Last month Nestlé said it had helped remove nearly 10,000 children from child labour in chocolate production since 2012.

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