Women Actors in Cocoa Production in Nkawkaw Cocoa District
As the international community celebrates this year’s International Women Day on March 8th, we at Green Tropics Group and Hotel Chocolat, our partners in the U.K wish to seize the opportunity to share stories of selected women actors in cocoa supply chain in our operational area as a way of highlighting the contribution of women to the production of the crop that has put Ghana on the global economic map as the world’s second largest cocoa grower and the source of highly priced good quality cocoa beans, the preferred choice of chocolate producers and confectioneries the world over. Our focus would be women in Nkawkaw Cocoa District who are occupying roles in the cocoa supply chain perceived to be the preserve of men, and highlight factors that motivated these women to enter into these male dominated occupations and the challenges involved in their pioneering endeavours.
Participation at Farm Level
Although cocoa production in Ghana in general, and in the Nkawkaw Cocoa District (NCD) in particular is typically perceived to be a male dominated economic activity, women play significant roles in the production of the crop from the farm level right up the supply chain to post-harvest operations including the marketing of the crop. Women’s work is the most frequently used type of unpaid family labour on cocoa farms in Ghana according to a study by ICI. Women are also an important source of direct casual wage labour for cocoa production at the farm level especially at the peak of the season such as during land preparation or harvesting.
Despite the significant roles played by women at the farm level particularly as providers of agricultural labour, farm ownership has largely remained male dominated. It is estimated that only about 20 percent of cocoa farms in the NCD are owned by women.
Presented below are brief summaries of the stories of Joyce Effah and Mary Mensah two women farmers who have managed to break the glass ceiling, and have established, and are managing their own cocoa farming ventures in the NCD.
Joyce Effah is a 49 year old owner of a five acre cocoa farm at Aprabonsu, a small farming community in the Nkawkaw Cocoa District in the Eastern Region of Ghana. She started her commercial farming career as a ginger farmer. The search for a more regular and guaranteed source of cash income to support her husband in taking care of the basic needs her household motivated her to diversify into the cultivation of cocoa. She has been a cocoa farmer for nearly 20 years. Income from cocoa has enable her to provide her children with quality education and also completed her own house.
Joyce’s major challenge has been how to balance the competing demands of domestic and care responsibilities as a wife and mother, and her productive duties as a cocoa farmer. Access to land for expansion of her cocoa farm is also a major constraint on her effort to develop her farming business to its full potential.
Mary Mensah, 58, is a mother of three and a leading cocoa farmer in the same community as Joyce. She has been in cocoa farming for about ten years. In the opinion of Mary, “ a cocoa farm is one of the most valuable asset one can bequeath her children and generations yet unborn” and this has been her main source of motivation for becoming a cocoa farmer. Another motivating factor she says is the fact that the crop has a ready market which makes finding a buyer for her beans hassle free.
Limited access to land for expansion of her farm has been a constraint on her productive potential resulting from her rich practical experience, and skills in improved techniques in cocoa farming acquired through participation in numerous training programmes organised by Nyonkopa Cocoa Buyers Limited (NCBL) and Cocobod’s extension personnel.
According Mary, cocoa production at the farm level involves a number of heavy physical activities that are beyond the capabilities of women farmers. These include spraying of pesticides, pruning and harvesting. Women farm owners are as a result forced to hire labour with their meagre resources to carry out these activities. This puts her and other women farm owners at a disadvantage
Female Extension Agent
Another woman occupying a traditionally male role in the cocoa production chain in the Nkawkaw Cocoa District whose story we wish to share is Henrietta Owusu, a young female extension agent working with one of Ghana Cocobod’s operational units called the Crop Health and Extension Division (CHED) in Nkawkaw. She was appointed to that position two years ago after her pre-service professional training.
Available statistics show that most extension officers are men. Statistics show that only 13 per cent of the entire population of agricultural extension agents in Ghana are women. Cultural norms and biases sometimes stand in the way of women accessing extension support from male extension agents especially on one-on-one basis. Male trainers and extension officers are therefore more likely to select, train, and advice male farmers.
Henrietta’s choice of profession was driven by her passion for reaching out to rural farmers particularly women to assist them to acquire the skills and knowledge they need for the realization of their productive potential and also to connect them to opportunities in place for improvement of living standards of smallholder cocoa farmers.
Henrietta believes that empowering women cocoa farmers not only has a positive impact on the lives of women , their households and communities at large but could also lead to the promotion of child protection and the longer term sustainability of the smallholder cocoa supply chain.
Henrietta advocates for a gender-sensitive agricultural extension services as a strategy for addressing the constraints that prevent women cocoa farmers from reaching their economic potentials. These constraints include inequitable access to land, credit, training and other essential agricultural inputs, women’s heavier time burdens, etc.
The major challenges faced by Henrietta as a women extension agent include reliable means of transport for commuting between her base in Nkawkaw and most of her operational area. She also find it difficult getting some of her colleagues to appreciate the need to factor the special needs, interests and capacities of women into their work programmes.
The last but not least set of stories of women participants in the cocoa supply chain we wish to put the limelight on, is the stories of women purchasing clerks (PC’s).
Purchasing clerks are commissioned agents who buy dried beans from farmers at farm gate on behalf of licensed cocoa buying companies (LBC’s)
Under Ghana’s semi-liberalised marketing system, a number of private companies have been licensed to participate in the internal marketing of cocoa beans. They participate by buying cocoa beans from producers at a price set by Cocobod. This segment of the supply chain is also another male-dominated segment of the cocoa supply chain in Ghana.
Nyonkopa Cocoa Buying Limited (NCBL) is one of about 20 licensed private intermediaries licensed by Ghana Cocobod to participate in the internal marketing of cocoa beans and a leading player in the cocoa marketing business in the Nkawkaw Cocoa District. The manager in charge of NCBL’s marketing operations in the Nkawkaw Cocoa District (NCD) is Dominic Adasi.
Nyonkopa, according Dominic, currently has a total of 63 produce purchasing agents or clerks spread throughout the Nkawkaw Cocoa District. Out of the number only six (6) i.e. less than 10 percent are women. This confirms the traditional dominance of the postharvest segment of the supply chain by men. Dominic believes the picture is same, if not worst in most of the cocoa growing areas of Ghana.
The following are brief summaries of the stories of three of the women PC who work with NCBL in Nkawkaw Cocoa District
Vida is a 30 year old a senior high school graduate. She is single, and the youngest of six women purchasing clerks (PC’s) contracted by Nyonkopa to purchase cocoa beans in the Nkawkaw Cocoa District. She is based at Ntronnang, a small, but fast growing cocoa producing community in the NCD. She started working for Nyonkopa in the year 2019. She was initially engaged as a sub-PC and worked under the aegis of a male PC called Mohammed based at Subriso, a neighbouring cocoa farming community to Ntonnang.
Her excellent performance earned her a promotion to the position of full PC after working as a sub for just a year. Vida is very entrepreneurial and operates a thriving palm oil extraction business in addition to her cocoa purchasing business.
Vida believes there is good prospects in the cocoa beans purchasing business and that has been the motivating factor.
Vida has identified limited access to finance as the main obstacle to the growth of her cocoa purchasing business. Another constraining factor is the very deplorable road network linking Ntronnang to neighbouring cocoa growing villages she obtains her supplies from.
Esther Asantewaa, 49, is a leading cocoa purchasing agent for NCBL based in Tweapease No. 2 in the Nkawkaw Cocoa District. According to Dominic, Esther was the first woman to be engaged as PC by NCBL in the Nkawkaw Cocoa District, and has consistently been one of his best performing PC’s.
Esther, a widow and mother of three adult children, was introduced to the business by her late husband whose main occupation was the purchase of cocoa beans on behalf of cocoa buying companies. Cocoa farming was Esther’s main occupation prior to joining and working with her husband about 16 years ago as his assistant.
Dominic commends Esther highly as a hardworking, trustworthy and transparent business partner, who, since becoming a PC under Nyonkopa has consistently delivered substantial volumes of good quality beans to the company.
Esther did not have the privilege of a formal education. She is assisted by her literate daughter who is in charge of record keeping.
Esther mentioned delays in the release of funds for beans purchased and invoiced to Nyonkopa as the major challenge she faces in her business.
Esther also complains of dwindling profit margins due to substantial outlays she makes on hired labour. As a women, she lacks the physical strength required for undertaking most of the tasks involved in cocoa bean purchasing business, such as bagging, weighing and lifting. This puts her at a disadvantage compared to her male counterparts.
Patience Adofoah, 45, is another hard working, reliable and transparent partner of NCBL in the cocoa bean purchasing business.
She is a Junior High School graduate, married with 4 children. She was engaged in retail trade prior to her entry into present business.
Patience operates a cocoa trading post located at Kwahu Praso No. 1 which she established about 6 years ago jointly with her husband. She perceived the business of PC as lucrative with a flexible time requirement that would enable her combine her domestic duties with running the business.
Patience started the business jointly with her husband who has since branched off to establish a separate buying operation which he manages independently of the original business which is managed by Patience.
According to Patience, she is the only female PC in the Kwahu Praso area. Her business is also one of the fastest growing buying operations in the area. She attributes her growing client base and increase in volumes of beans sourced to her principled stand on issues of quality and transparency.
A number of her dedicated clients, especially the women among them often confide in her their reasons for choosing to do business and sticking with her. These clients said it was their suspicion of cheating by other PC’s (through adjustment of weighing scales) that motivated them to bring their beans to her.
The challenges Patience faces in her business are the same as those mentioned above by Esther.
We conclude with the following which is a testimony shared by Dominic concerning women actors in the cocoa supply chain
“The women PC’S greater diligence, honesty and careful attention to quality control in addition to their greater willingness to receive guidance and follow directions as compared to their male counterparts provide convincing evidence that including more women farmers and entrepreneurs in the cocoa supply chain especially at the PC level can yield significant productivity gains and promote the long term sustainability of the smallholder-based cocoa supply chain in Ghana”.