Key point:

  • Female cocoa farmers in West Africa do not reach their full potential due to their limited access to land, inputs and information.

Why?

Many companies provide technical training, extension services, credit and production inputs to their smallholder suppliers to improve productivity and the quality of the cocoa. Research shows that women tend to benefit less from these inputs and services than men (Chan & Barrientos, 2010). This is a missed business opportunity.

Extension services often have biases in the local selection criteria, such as minimum land size, literacy and ability to purchase inputs, which exclude women (Manfre et al., 2013). Women therefore suffer serious disadvantages in accessing extension services and training. Globally, it is estimated that women receive only 5 percent of all agricultural extension services (Greene & Robles, 2012).

“Even where women do the majority of farm work, their husbands are often the registered farmer, so it is likely the husband, rather than the wife, will be invited to attend the relevant training” (Chan & Barrientos, 2010).

Access to farmer groups often requires land ownership or registration of minimum production or harvest volumes, to demonstrate that they are “serious farmers”. These requirements exclude the majority of women involved in cocoa production (Chan & Barrientos, 2010).

Women also suffer disproportionately in gaining access to credit facilities and farming equipment. Women in Ghana are virtually excluded from mainstream banking and credit systems.

Most extension officers and trainers are men. Only 15 percent of the world’s agricultural extension agents are women (FAO, 2007; World Bank/FAO/IFAD, 2009).

Reducing gender inequalities in access to productive resources and services could increase yields on women’s farms by 20-30%, which could raise total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5-4% (FAO, 2011).

“Although cocoa farmer organizations are essential for sharing knowledge, providing services and boosting productivity, they are often dominated by men. Those who are members, who are officers, who get trained and who are served by these farmer organizations are predominantly male farmers” (Velyvis et al., 2011).