Decades of Women

Strengthening Gender Equity in Agriculture

– a case study of gender and organic cocoa in Kyela

The informal slogan of the international Decade of Women (1976-1985) became “Women do two-thirds of the world’s work, receive 10 percent of the world’s income and own 1 percent of the means of production.” Twenty-five years on, as the African Union launches the African Women’s Decade (2010-2020), it would seem that here in Tanzania little has changed.

About two hours drive south of Mbeya, on the shores of Lake Nyasa, Kyela is famous for its high quality rice and organic cocoa. Around three quarters of Kyela’s 120,000 farmers grow cocoa, first introduced by Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah as a legacy of his friendship with Mwalimu Julius Nyerere.

Tanzania Organic Agriculture Movement was asked to prepare a case study of the impact of certification on gender relations in Kyela by Development Partner HIVOS as part of the international Gender and Global Standards Initiative. This aims to ensure that men and women receive a fair share of benefits related to their contributions in production, harvest and processing.

Women work more than men but are paid less
We found that in Kyela women typically work 3 hours per day longer than men. As well as working on the farm they also have to clean, cook, and look after the children. But it is the men who sell the cocoa beans and have the final say on how the money is spent. Luckily, since the cocoa has gained organic certification, farmers’ incomes have increased significantly (from around TSh300/kg to TSh2,800/kg) which has benefitted both men and women across the whole community. Many families now have brick houses with iron roofs, and better access to education and healthcare. Some even have satellite TV and access to solar electricity.

One male cocoa farmer told us “Money was so little I was not bothering to show the money to my wife nor inform her on how I spend it; the little which I was receiving I used it for drinking pombe. But nowadays we are deciding together and we discuss on how to spend our income as a family.”

The problems start when men fail to share the money or involve women in decision-making. One woman confided, “Women harvest the unripe cocoa and sell it raw and unfermented to the middlemen (mjemuka) in order to get money for the upkeep of the family. They sell it to the middlemen at low prices because selling to the registered companies she can be noticed by her husband.”

Family disputes over cocoa income can spark gender-based violence. We heard that sometimes if a wife tries to ask her husband about the money he received from selling the cocoa, she could be threatened or beaten if she persists.

But when women are fully involved, not just in production but also in training, and decision making, then quality and productivity increases, maximising incomes and benefit to the whole family. Certification has added some extra workload but women say the additional family benefits far outweigh the extra effort.

Women own very little land and property
Certification has had no impact on gender equity in land ownership. Women rarely own land as ownership passes from father to son. However, as a result of increased incomes, you can see many Kyela women now riding bicycles, and chatting on mobile phones.

Certification can help women
We found that different types of certification have very different impacts on gender relations. While we saw very little impact as a result of ‘organic’ certification on its own, we noticed considerable impact as a result of additional ‘fair trade’ certification. As a fairly-traded cocoa manager candidly told us, “We are forced to do so by the standard.” His company is making considerable efforts to address gender inequality, employing more women, and insisting that women farmers get training as well as men. The experience has taught him lessons, as he explained, “Women don’t think they can do things but they are good workers, careful. Other employers may think they are unreliable.”

The call to action

It makes good economic sense to ensure women are fully included. Meticulous, responsible, and quick to learn, women farmers are strongly motivated to work for the benefit of their families. Harness that motivation and you capture major improvements to productivity, quality, and income.

A female farmer suggested “Awareness has to be created for people to realize that both of them, men and women, contribute to producing cocoa and thus equal ownership of cocoa and an equal say on spending money earned is essential.”

Launching the African Women’s Decade, Songea born United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro said, “Empowering women is a moral imperative, a question of fundamental rights. It is also sound policy. Investing in women and girls is one of the greatest investments we can make. We must ensure that rural women can access the legal, financial and technological tools they need to progress from subsistence agriculture to productive agriculture. Let us accept in our minds, and in our laws, that women are rightful and equal partners – to be protected, to be respected, and to be heard.”

(The Gender and Global Standards Initiative is undertaken by four organizations in the Netherlands: Hivos, Oxfam Novib, Solidaridad and the Royal Tropical Institute.)