Key points:

  • Women actually perform almost half of the tasks on the cocoa farm. Women are primarily involved in taking care of young plants and post-harvest activities.
  • The big challenge: How to involve women in maintaining and improving the quality of cocoa whilst; (1) making sure they benefit from their efforts and (2) not overburdening them with extra tasks.


Cocoa production is a sector that continues to be seen as a “man’s business”. While women work on cocoa farms, they often do so as unpaid family or casual labor whose contribution is unrecognized (Barrientos, 2013). Substantive research shows that women actually perform half of the tasks on the cocoa farm. Understanding and recognizing women’s contribution to the production process is the first step towards improving cocoa production.

Figure 1: The role of women in cocoa farming


Source: Dalberg, 2012

Division of labor: Although men and women conduct different tasks in cocoa production, the time they invest is roughly the same (UTZ/Solidaridad, 2009). In cocoa communities, men are responsible for the more hazardous and physically demanding tasks, such as pesticide spraying, pruning and harvesting of the cocoa. Women are mainly involved in early plant care and post-harvest activities, such as pod-breaking, fermenting and drying. These tasks are fundamental for ensuring the quality of the cocoa. The future of high quality cocoa production thus depends on the women involved (Barrientos, 2013).

Women are less likely to benefit from cocoa revenues: men control the marketing of cocoa (UTZ/Solidaridad, 2009), and are more likely to have a cooperative membership. A study among 1000 farmers in Cameroon showed that among married cocoa farmers, 97% of the men were in control of cocoa marketing (GTZ, 2009).

Table 1: Control over marketing cocoa by sex and marital status (in %) in Cameroon by male and female farm managers

Status (%)MaleFemale    

Source: GTZ, 2009

Besides working on the cocoa farm, women are involved in household tasks and other work (such as food crop farming and trading). Combining all tasks, men work 49 hours per week on average, while women have an average working week of 63 hours (Hill and Vigneri, 2011).

Table 2: Average weekly hours spent on domestic chores by gender

Domestic chores:Women Men
Fetch Wood + Water1.270.48
Child Care5.122.83
Elderly and Sick care1.460.40
Total HH26.0610.22
Total Work on Cocoa Farm36.7238.55

Best practices: the Nestlé Cocoa Plan
From 2009-2014, Nestlé helped the COPAZ cooperative, which supports women, to distribute over 300,000 new cocoa plants. Agathe Vanier is the founder and president of COPAZ, a cocoa cooperative based in Divo, in central-western Côte d’Ivoire. Agathe led a campaign to demonstrate how the inclusion of women in cocoa farming could not only have a positive impact on their families, but on the country as a whole. In 2010, her 600-woman cooperative joined the Nestlé Cocoa Plan. Nestlé provides them with high-yielding, disease-tolerant cocoa seedlings and technical assistance. The cooperative also received support from Nestlé to buy a new truck for delivering cocoa beans. “In our tradition, cocoa farming was only reserved for men,” Agathe says. “We fought for our rights to some land and the Nestlé Cocoa Plan supports us.”