In Ghana, an estimated 800,000 farmers are dependent on the production of cocoa for their income, the key ingredient in chocolate enjoyed by consumers worldwide. In West Africa, where most of the world’s cocoa comes from, women do nearly half of the labour on cocoa farms but own just a quarter of the land, and often make much less than their male counterparts.
VSO and Mondelēz International, one of the world’s largest confectionary companies, are equipping women farmers with training and support to start their own business enterprises. Two women share the story of how Cocoa Life has given them more independence.
Juliana Nasele is 27 years old. She runs a small business selling bread to local schoolchildren and farm workers in her home town of Tutuka, Ghana, with the help of Cocoa Life.
“I’ve always had a mind for business but before I didn’t have the capital. I really wanted to make sweet bread to sell, I felt this was an opportunity. No one was selling anything of this sort.
"Very early in the morning, farmers come and buy sweet bread. There are school children too who come and buy it."
My daughter's future is brighter
Juliana explains the impact it's had: “I have a seven-year-old daughter. When I wasn’t working I used to worry about her future.”
"She wants to be a nurse one day, now I have money for her to further her education. I have money to pay my daughter’s school fees, for food and books for her. The future for my daughter is brighter than it was for me."
I don't owe money to anybody
"Because of this business, wherever I go I will not experience hardship or financial difficulty. Now, even when my extended family call upon me for help, I will use money from this business to improve their lives."
"I’ve been able to pay off debt and I now have my own capital that I’m running the business with.
"I don’t owe money to anybody.”
Before Cocoa Life, women were not allowed to talk
Barkhisu Aziz, 33, has also been supported to develop her entrepreneurial skills through Cocoa Life. She too has set up a small bakery business, which has brought her a host of benefits beyond increased income.
"Before Cocoa Life started, women were not allowed to talk in this community. Since the training, the women are allowed to participate in decision making.
"My husband used to stop me from going places. Now, he doesn’t really mind, I’m allowed to go where I want. My husband has started saying I should learn to read and write, so I’ve spoken to a teacher who will help me do this."
Women joining forces
Barkhisu is now part of the women’s enterprise training group. She explains:
"When it comes to the cocoa meetings, I don’t impose my decisions on the group. It requires a lot of patience, you have to listen to the views of everybody.
"You have to be a good listener because whether they are right or not, whether it’s good or bad, you have to understand.
"I hope that these women will carry on with their activities and I hope that it improves their lives.
"It has really been a blessing.”
Over five years since world leaders created the Sustainable Development Goals, with attention now focused squarely on the global pandemic, you'd be forgiven for wondering: does anyone still care about the SDGs?