For more than two decades, Divine Chocolate and the Kuapa Kokoo Farmers’ Cooperative in Ghana have shared a commitment to empowering women. Together, they are helping women in cocoa farming develop the skills and confidence to grow better cocoa, build better communities—and thrive in business.
It’s as much a business model as a social mission. Divine Chocolate is the only 100% Fairtrade chocolate company co-owned by cocoa farmers. And of the 85,0000 Kuapa Kokoo farmers who co-own the company, more than a third are women. For Kuapa Kokoo and Divine, encouragement and mentoring of women has always been a priority. Investing in programs designed to teach valuable personal and professional skills is helping thousands of women bring money into their families, even during cocoa's off-season. With financing from Divine, Kuapa Kokoo has established targeted activities, including intensive adult literacy and numeracy classes, primarily focused on women.
Classes like these quickly illustrate how life-changing a little learning can be. A farmer who learns to write her name is instantly in a position to be able to sign for things, record transactions, and better negotiate the world around her. As Lydia Dufie in Sikaman says “Now I can see which bus I need to take me home."
When women gather for literacy lessons and skills training, they learn far more than what is covered in the class. They discover how important and useful education is and makes them more likely to insist that their children attend school.
In fact, in communities where Kuapa Kokoo has implemented gender-specific programming, its women farmers earn more income, own more land, stand a greater chance of being elected to leadership positions, and are more likely to send their daughters to school.
“It is particularly important to me that women members see the benefit of organizing themselves and receive training in skills as well as cocoa farming so they can earn more income, and save and use it sensibly,” said Fatima Ali, Kuapa Kokoo Farmers’ Union President. “I hope to oversee an improvement in female literacy, and to see more women become recorders in their villages.”