A global conference on women in the cocoa sector opened in Accra yesterday with an assurance from the Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, Ms Otiko Afisah Djaba, that the government would reactivate the cocoa spraying exercise for farmers.
“Over the next four years, under the cocoa sector, we will reactivate and expand the mass spraying and hi-tech programmes, replant old cocoa farms with high-yielding and disease resistant plants,” Ms Djaba said.
There are many women involved in the cocoa sector and any policy to enhance productivity in the sector will have direct impact on the welfare of those women.
The conference served as a forum to reflect on the strategic decisions needed to be taken in order to promote gender in the cocoa sector.
The conference is focussed on women’s financial inclusion, productivity and work and land tenure.
Empowering women in cocoa
Speaking on the topic: “Renewing hope and the cocoa gender imperative,” Ms Djaba said the government was going to work with institutions to enable farmers to receive increased producer prices and bonuses high enough to encourage them to produce more cocoa.
She said empowering women in cocoa farming not only had a positive impact on the lives of women, men and communities, but also provided a business advantage and could eradicate poverty.
She said when women had control over their own income or family earnings, they reinvested in their families, children and communities and increased the well-being and the sustainability of cocoa-growing communities.
“I believe that with a strong support for women, child labour in cocoa farming can be addressed,” she added.
“We cannot ignore the fact that though both men and women play equally important roles in all sectors and industries, there are existing disparities which if not addressed could hinder the growth and sustainability within such industries or sectors,” she added.
Ms Djaba said women played a pivotal role in ensuring the sustainability of the cocoa industry and that women’s labour, in any cocoa growing country, made significant contributions to the amount of cocoa produced.
She said to continue efforts at empowering women, there was the need to develop an enabling legal and policy environment at all levels of the cocoa-chocolate chain, adding that the government and industry must put in place interventions and programmes which would enable women to contribute meaningfully to the cocoa industry.
COCOBOD gender initiatives
The Executive Director, Cocoa Health and Extension Division (CHED) of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Mr E. A. Opoku, who spoke on Ghana’s Cocoa Strategy for Gender, said gender inequality was a global challenge but more profound among developing countries where agriculture was the main occupation.
He said land tenure practices, deeply rooted and influenced by culture and belief systems, worked to the disadvantage of women and added that “oftentimes, our entrenched position as domineering males within the social setup exasperates the efforts to improve women’s economic empowerment.”
He said to help increase women’s visibility in the cocoa sector, COCOBOD was encouraging more female cocoa farmers to attend farmer business schools and train in sustainable cocoa farming business practices.