Gender and cocoa

Enabling Environment


Gender issues need to be addressed in the planning and implementation of climate-smart practices in cocoa, as women and men are affected and respond differently to climate change-related risks. Key elements of successful climate change adaptation are decision-making power, technical capacity, and access to information and physical and financial resources. Men and women all over the world do not have the same level of household and public decision-making power, access to information and resources. This uneven starting point is crucial when planning and implementing adaptation measures, which heavily rely on those elements. A growing number of studies prove that farming households do not operate as a unit, but rather their components have differentiated needs, priorities and opportunities based on their gender (Kiewisch, 2015). While a number of studies specifically analyze which CSA practices and technologies are most likely to be adopted by female or male farmers, it is not possible to draw a clear-cut line Some key factors of the successful adoption of a CSA practice or technology by all socio-economic groups are:

  • Decision-making power: does the target group have the power to take decisions on the production process of cocoa? • Technical capabilities: does the target group have access to the necessary services, e.g. training, and information?
  • Access to the resources needed: does the target group have access to the financial resources required? Does the target group have access to the physical assets required? 
  • Interest to invest: what are the gains? Does it respond to the target group’s needs? Does it require extra labor?

Importance in terms of CSA

It is also a fact that CSA interventions failing to acknowledge these gender differences, and assuming that farmers start off on a level playing field, are headed for reinforcing existing inequalities (Asfaw et al., 2015).

Productivity: An analysis of women’s and men’s differentiated opportunities and constraints ensures inclusivity in the designated CSA practice and the avoidance of unwanted effects, such as increased workload for women. Therefore, gender analysis of the status quo, engagement of both women and men, an evaluation of constraints and benefits of all targeted groups are some assessment tools that can be used to ensure that a gender-sensitive approach is integrated into CSA interventions (Nelson & Huyer, 2016).

Adaptation: Gender is therefore recognized and one of the main determinants of vulnerability and resilience

Adapted from Kiewisch (2015)

Asfaw, S., Bishop-Sambrook, C., Diei, Y., Firmian, I., Henninger, N. E., Heumesser, C., … & Li, Y. (2015). Gender in climate-smart agriculture: module 18 for gender in agriculture sourcebook. Agriculture global practice. Washington, DC: World Bank Group, p. 9.

Study cases

Case study 1: Indonesia

“I’m not a chocolate farmer, I’m just a housewife”: Gendered divisions of labor for small-scale cacao production in Lampung and South-Sulawesi – Eissler, S., 2018.


Cocoa farming households in South-Sulawesi, Indonesia (Eissler, 2018). Structured interviews were conducted with 221 farmers (141 male and 80 female) in 2 provinces in South-Sulawesi and followed by focus group discussions and in-depth interviews. The aim of this study is to assess the time allocation of men and women in small-scale cacao producing households and the division of labor regarding cocoa production.

Importance in terms of CSA

The study provides insights on the decision-making power and access to information within cocoa-growing households and analyzes the effects of gendered time allocation and division of labor in cocoa farming households. The adoption of CSA techniques can boost household wellbeing and farm productivity; empowering women is critical to make sure their contribution to cocoa farming includes the adoption of CSA practices. Female and male farmers do not have equal access to information. Women are viewed as housewives and not farmers and thus are not included in trainings, skill or capacity building opportunities, or formal information sharing. Women receive all their cocoa-related information and training from their husbands or other women who receive it from their husbands. Women are actively involved in cocoa production and spend a considerable amount of time on farming-related tasks; figures show that 12% of women’s time is dedicated to farming-related tasks, compared to men’s 27%. This is more than compensated by the higher share of time women dedicate to domestic work and children upbringing, 21% compared to men’s 3%. The high workload does not allow women to have access to CSA practices information and the time or the decision-making power to adopt them.

Case study 2: Ghana

What are the drivers of cocoa farmers’ choice of climate change adaptation strategies in Ghana? – Denkyirah, et al. 2017.


Information from smallholder cocoa farmers from six cocoa growing communities in the Brong Ahafo Region of Ghana was gathered (Denkyirah, Okoffo, Adu, & Bosompem, 2017). Six cocoa growing communities were randomly selected in the district and 240 cocoa farmers (40 per community) were interviewed with a semi-structured questionnaire. This study researches factors influencing the adoption of CSA strategies among cocoa farmers taking into consideration a range of socio-economic factors such as gender, age, engagement in other economic activities, farm size.

Importance in terms of CSA

The study analyses the following practices: planting of improved varieties of cocoa, increasing pesticide and fertilizer application, crop diversification, diversification to non-farm activities and planting of trees for shade. It aims at showing a correlation, of the absence thereof, between the adoption of these practices and the following variables: gender, age of the farmer, marital status, household size, and engagement in other agricultural activities, education, farming experience, size of land, access to extension services, organization membership, and access to credit, and income from cocoa. Gender seems to be a convincing explanatory variable only in pesticide and fertilizers application and it is attributed to health reasons. However, lack of access to credit is correlated to all adaptation strategies investigated (except for shade tree adoption) and is arguably influenced by gender.

Case study 3: Peru

Intensification of cocoa in the Peruvian Amazon: Gender relations and options for deeper engagement by women. –Blare and Donovan, 2017.


61 smallholder interviews were conducted in the VRAEM region among those who participated in a cocoa value chain development project. The aim of the study is to analyze the impact of the cocoa production intensification project on gender roles and women’s empowerment. Sex-disaggregated indicators were gathered to assess gender roles in asset ownership, labor division, decision-making, interest in cocoa intensification and constraints faced.

Importance in terms of CSA

While the intervention is not specifically aimed at improving the climate responsiveness of cocoa production (but rather at reducing reliance on illicit crops cultivation), it has elements of interest for climate-smart cocoa interventions. Similarly, too many CSA interventions, the project provides technical assistance and training to farmer groups to increase the productivity and profitability of cocoa production and promote diversification. The percentages of women in the target area who received technical assistance and training in cocoa production were significantly lower than those of men, respectively 58% versus 93% and 58% versus 95%. Household division of labor heavily influences women’s participation in the project’s activities and cocoa production. In fact, women have a limited amount of time to dedicate to assistance and training activities, as, unlike men, they are expected to carry out all domestic activities. Most women felt they did not have enough time to complete all tasks; a third of them perceived that the intervention increased their workload. Barriers to participation are therefore heavily determined by gender roles in the share of productive and reproductive activities in the households. To lower these barriers, the researchers suggest providing childcare, establish women’s groups, use alternative sources to share information and employ women’s technicians.