Co-op and the Compass Group UK & Ireland back women cocoa farmers

Co-op and the Compass Group UK & Ireland back women cocoa farmers

The Women’s School of Leadership is being launched and led by the producer network Fairtrade Africa at an event being held today in Côte d’Ivoire to coincide with International Mother’s Day.
Research shows that despite making up almost half of the workforce, the majority of women farmers in developing countries receive lower pay than men, are often unable to own land and are excluded from business loans or agricultural training that male farmers benefit from. Yet research suggests closing the gender gap could actually address poverty.
Dr TsiTsi Choruma, Chief Operating Officer, Fairtrade Africa, said: “We welcome this investment from Co-op and Compass Group UK & Ireland which will enable Fairtrade Africa’s first ever Women’s Leadership School to become a catalyst for change, increasing women’s agency in leadership and contribute to changing social norms which are key barriers to women’s participation in business. Currently in Côte d’Ivoire, where this project is launching, women make up 68% of the labour force, yet only 25% own land, as such few have roles in the business, access to revenue generated from cocoa or even bank accounts – that’s why this support from UK businesses is just so vital for us to begin redressing the balance for agricultural communities.”
Through a rigorous training programme, the 24 students of the Class of 2017 will become role models and share what they learn within their communities and seven co-operatives, which represent almost 5,000 members. They will gain skills in finance, negotiation, and decision-making as well as greater awareness gender equality. One of the new participants of the course is cocoa farmer Kouame Ehui Edith, a single mother of one child, who left secondary school before graduating. She hopes to gain skills to help her with her business and her work as a community leader for the Fairtrade-certified farmers’ co-operative she is a member of. She said: “The Women’s School of Leadership will be a good opportunity for us women to learn. I am looking forward to this program changing my life.”
In addition to this funding commitment to the women’s empowerment project, Co-op, the world’s largest convenience Fairtrade retailer has recently stepped up its support to farmers even further. In addition to all of its chocolate confectionery being Fairtrade, from the end of May 2017 all of the cocoa Co-op buy for own label products will be sourced on Fairtrade terms. 
Brad Hill, Fairtrade strategy manager at Co-op, who is attending today’s launch of the Women’s School of Leadership, said: “The positive impact of Fairtrade on women’s rights and participation is just one element that Co-op is passionate to support. Although women make up almost half the agricultural workforce in developing countries, they account for just over one fifth of the producer organisations that are certified by Fairtrade and require funding to enable them to take more important roles in the farming community. 
“Fairtrade lies at the heart of our values and we are proud to be Fairtrade pioneers, championing what we believe is right. By partnering with Fairtrade, we are addressing the issues of an unsustainable cocoa industry and taking  steps to address the Sustainable Development Goal 5 of gender equality.” 
“As part of our latest commitment to Fairtrade, we are delighted that some of the investment will be directly supporting the funding of Fairtrade Africa’s Women’s Leadership School project to train them in business skills and decision making and help empower them as future leaders.”
Meanwhile Compass Group UK & Ireland, the UK’s largest food and support services firm, has launched a new range of EatFair snack bars and are committing 5p from each bar to support this programme. 
Louise Pilkington, Marketing Director at Compass Group UK & Ireland, said: “Our new look EatFair snack bars are not only delicious, but also ethically sourced. We are committed to raising £50,000 through donating 5p from each snack bar we sell and we hope this will go a long way to improving gender equality in cocoa growing communities through the Fairtrade Africa’s Women’s Leadership school. As a big business we’re dedicated to sourcing ethically and EatFair is the perfect way to demonstrate some of the good work we’re doing.”

A film recorded in 2016 with Fairtrade cocoa farmers in Cote d’Ivoire outlined the problems faced by women who rely on their husbands for income and the men in their community for information about their business, despite working hard to produce cocoa. It also highlighted the importance of empowering women to take on positions of leadership. Although the communities involved in this project are not from the same region, it offers insight into the challenges and opportunities the programme seeks to address. Watch here.  
As cooperative rules often only allow the land title-owner to register membership, Fairtrade’s 2016 Monitoring Report (p28) shows that an average of just 23% of official members of Fairtrade small producer cooperatives are women, whilst 48% of all workers on large certified farms are women. 
In 2015 Fairtrade’s report Equal Harvest found that to close this gender gap, women need finance, access to training, employment in more senior positions and membership of co-operatives and farmer associations. It also outlines how to influence and change cultural norms and practices about women, and help bring about policies for businesses and governments to redress the balance.

For more information and to request interviews contact:

Susannah Henty, Media and PR Manager, +44 (0)20 7440 8597, Mobile: +44 (0)7971223771

About Fairtrade:
The international Fairtrade system exists to end poverty through trade. The Fairtrade Foundation is an independent certification body and NGO which licenses the use of the FAIRTRADE Mark on more than 5,000 products which meet its rigorous social, economic and environmental standards. Today, more than 1.6 million farmers and workers benefit from Fairtrade, which campaigns for as well as enables a fairer system of global trade. In 2016, UK retail sales of Fairtrade certified products exceeded £1.65 billion. Volume growth also increased, meaning that an estimated financial premium totalling around £30 million will go to farmers and producers across Africa, Asia, Latin America and Caribbean to allow them to continue delivering improvements for themselves and their communities. Beyond certification, the Fairtrade Foundation is deepening its impact by delivering specialist programmes and business partnerships to help disadvantaged communities even further.  

Established in 2005, Fairtrade Africa is the independent non-profit umbrella organisation representing all Fairtrade certified producers in Africa. Fairtrade Africa is owned by its members, who are African producer organisations certified against international Fairtrade standards producing traditional export commodities such as coffee, cocoa, tea, cotton, bananas, mango and non-traditional commodities including shea butter and rooibos tea. Currently, the organisation represents over 10,055,000 producers across 33 countries in Africa.  

About Compass Group UK & Ireland:
We’re the people behind the food, hospitality and support services that power your day, make you smile and put a spring in your step. Just one of the reasons why we’re the UK and Ireland’s number one catering and support services provider, with Compass Group PLC annual revenues of £20 billion in the year to 30 September 2016, and £2 billion of revenues in the UK & Ireland.

Here in the UK we’re 60,000 talented people bringing you all of the great tasting food, memorable experiences and vital support services that can transform every day into a great day. All of the little things that make the world of difference and boost the wellbeing of millions. We’re here to inspire, protect, nourish and energise. To brighten your day.

And we do it all. Tasty healthy food that brings people together and makes them smile, and world-class security, hospitality, building maintenance, cleaning and procurement services that make everyone’s day just that little bit brighter. We work behind the scenes at sports events, far flung oilrigs and military bases, and in the heart of schools, hospitals, care homes, client offices and boardrooms – some 15,000 locations across the UK and Ireland. 

About the Co-op Group:
The Co-op is one of the world’s largest consumer co-operatives, with interests spanning food, funerals, insurance, electrical and legal services. It has a clear purpose of championing a better way of doing business for you and your communities. Owned by over 4 million members, the Co-op has 3,800 outlets in communities across the UK. It employs around 69,000 people and has an annual turnover of over £9.5 billion.