Key point:

  • Education is central to the future of cocoa communities in West Africa. However, school attendance rates are low and dropout rates high, especially among girls.


School attendance and enrollment rates are around 60-80% for primary schools and around 30-50% for secondary schools in most West African countries (UNICEF, 2014). Long distances to schools and low levels of parental support have prevented children from attending schools. Financial barriers to birth registration have excluded migrant groups from sending their children to school (KIT, 2014).

Dropout rates among West African youth are high. According to administrative data, 20–40% of children in West Africa do not reach the last primary grade and drop out on the way (UNICEF, 2014).

Table 1: Differences in education between male and female farmers

Level of schoolingCôte d'IvoireGhanaNigeria   
Never attended school32%48%17%30%10%48%
Not completed school27%26%8%13%8%11%
Completed primary school15%14%5%9%23%16%
Attended junior, middle or secondary 23%11%61%45%16%8%
Completed secondary school or higher3%0%8%2%43%16%

Source: Fortson et al., 2011

Improving school attendance might lead to reductions in child labor. A study among Ivorian children showed that school attendance was 34% for children participating in all cocoa tasks, while attendance for children not working on the family cocoa farm rose to 64% (IITA, 2002).

In Nigeria, Cameroon and Côte d’Ivoire, school attendance rates are higher among boys than girls (UNICEF, 2014). In the first grade of the two primary schools in Amelekia (Côte d’Ivoire), 60.6% were boys and only 39.4% were girls (KIT, 2014). Dropout rates in Ivorian primary schools are 38.2% for boys and 40.6% for girls (UNICEF, 2009). The study in Amelekia showed that early pregnancies were a major cause for dropouts among young women in vocational training (KIT, 2014).

Best practices: SAGE²S and Nestlé Cocoa Plan
The Specific Age-Group Education & Empowerment System (SAGE²S) is a pilot program in Amelekia, a cocoa growing community in the east of Côte d’Ivoire. It aims to address issues around schooling by empowering young women and girls in rural communities in three different age groups, through agricultural training and micro-enterprise development. SAGE²S is a collaboration between WCF, ADM, IECD and KIT.

Nestlé committed to building 40 schools in four years. It has now completed 23. Nestlé works with the community to seek its assistance in building the schools and in creating school management committees. Some schools have been set up with kitchen gardens, to provide some income and help teach practical skills. Lack of schools means children not getting an education or are walking a long way to school; existing schools are often overcrowded with over 55 children per class. Educating girls is the first step to helping the next generation of women and children.