Cocoa is Ghana

At an event on the sidelines of the on-going 61st Session of the Commission on Status of Women (CSW) at the UN Headquarters in New York, it became clear that gender inequalities limit economic productivity, efficiency and undermines the development agenda.

Ms Patricia Appiagyei, the Member of Parliament for Asokwa and Deputy Minister designate for Environment, Science and Technology, in a presentation, said despite the fact that women performed 60 per cent of the world's work, and produce 50 per cent of the food, they managed only 10 per cent of the income and owned only one per cent of the property.

She said recent estimates around the world indicate that women provided approximately 70 per cent of agricultural labour and produced about 90 per cent of all food, and yet female farmers faced the most serious constraints when buying non-labour inputs and selling their farm outputs due to their weak bargaining power and social inequalities.

Ms. Appiagyei said current interventions for sustainability of the cocoa sector did not always address the problem of unequal access, pointing out that majority of them were not reached. "Economic capabilities of Ghanaian women and in particular their ability to manage family welfare are being inhibited by ignorance of the interventions available and limited access to land and active business participation occasioned by the cultural dictates," she said.

Ms. Appiagyei urged financial institutions to tailor their products and services to meet the particular needs of farmers such as land ownership, access to land and cultural blocks of women in business in addition to their access to markets. Ms. Otiko Afisah Djaba, the Gender, Children and Social Protection Minister, in a presentation on; "The Commitment of Government to Empower Women in the Cocoa Industry," said Ghana, which is the second largest world producer of cocoa, generated about two billion dollars in foreign exchange annually from that sector.

The sector also accounts for 30 per cent of the total exports and creates employment for 800,000 farming families, she said, adding that the sector affected about six million people, nearly 30 per cent of the population.Ms. Djaba said recent research had shown that two-thirds of persons working on cocoa farms as labourers and farm hands were women.

“Cocoa production is particularly good for women because it provides a more secure way to gain land right,” she said.Ms. Djaba said Ghana's President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, was committed to improving agriculture and gave the assurance that the Government “will continue to reward our hardworking women and strengthen their rights to give them a voice.”

She said government would also provide them with the necessary tools and facilities like Information and Communication Technology, classrooms and other facilities in the rural areas to reduce child labour.

She mentioned positive interventions by government and the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) to reduce the burden on farmers and improve productivity to include Microfinance and Small Loans Centre (MASLOC), motorized pruners, spraying machines and weed removers as well as tricycles.

Speaking on the "Role of the Female Farmer in the Cocoa Industry," Ms. Lucy Addai-Poku, a cocoa farmer at Asakraka in the Ashanti Region, gave a picture of the difficulty women cocoa farmers go through daily and their contribution to global development, but regretted the falling world market price of cocoa which affects them.

She lauded the training programmes and technical assistance that the COCOBOD and other international bodies offered her and other famers, saying that the experiences gathered had helped to boost her knowledge of the cocoa industry and improved her yields.Despite the strides made, she said farmers lacked access to financial capital, land and labour, apart from not getting insurance for their farms, which at times suffered from droughts or bushfires.

Ms. Addai-Poku commended the Government and the COCOBOD for the sustained efforts to bridge the gender gap between men and women working in the cocoa farms and those receiving relevant training to enhance their work.