What role do women play in cocoa and chocolate industry?
On January the 20th, I was invited to participate on a panel called “How can women transform the food industry for women?” during the International Forum. This forum was organized by CECI and WUSC-EUMC, the two organizations with which I was able to go to Peru in July 2016. In the weeks previous to this forum, I dug deeper into the topic of women’s conditions in cacao and chocolate production. There are many inequalities, but things are changing little by little, and numerous initiatives appeared in the last few years to help women and add value to their work. The situation According to statistics from the World Cocoa Foundation, in agriculture in general, « Women perform 66 % of the world’s work, produce 50% of the food, but only manage 10% of the income and only own 1% of the property » (World Cocoa Foundation). The situation is similar in cacao production. In West Africa, between 15% and 25% of women working in a cacao field own the land (UTZ Certified and Solidaridad, 2009). The others are spouses of cacao farmers, family members or employees. Access to land is one of the major barriers for female producers, and other obstacles result from it: access to cooperatives, credit, training and market (1). Percentage of land ownership in West Africa. Source: CLP survey; Empowering Women and Fighting Poverty: Cocoa and Land Rights in West Africa: International Food and Policy Research Institute; Dalberg analysis. Oftentimes, the work of those women is less recognized, and they get lower salaries than men. However, they participate in 50% of the tasks related to the cultivation of cacao, and as much as 70% in some countries like in Ghana (Andoh, 2017). Also, most of the time, the tasks they complete are essential to the quality of the cacao beans. They are the ones taking care of the young cacao trees in the nursery, or in charge of the post-harvest processes: fermentation, drying, sorting of the bean (The Gender and Cocoa Livelihoods Toolbox). These steps are crucial to getting a high quality cacao. That’s indeed what I observed during my trip to Madagascar in the Fall of 2016. Pod breaking, MAVA Plantation (Madagascar) Drying cacao beans, Plantation Millot (Madagascar) Sorting cacao beans, MAVA Plantation (Madagascar) The situation of the female bean-to-bar (b2b) chocolate makers is different. Since I started in the industry in 2008, the number of female b2b makers has largely increased. In Canada only, there are about thirty b2b makers right now and more than half of them are run by women alone or couples where the woman has a very influential role in the production. The weight of the cacao bags or the very mechanical and technical side of the production don’t seem to stop them (2). Most of the female b2b makers I talked to told me that their biggest challenge as women was to get cacao beans directly from farmers. Unfortunately, some of them are not taken seriously when they do business with male producers, wether they are based in Canada, in the USA or in a cacao producing country (3). Several of them would like to work with female cacao producers, but they don’t always know how to reach them or the cooperatives in which they are members. Positive initiatives One of the solutions is to help women from all spheres of the chocolate industry connect by giving them the possibility to meet and forge links. Since May 2016, those connections are possible thanks to the Women in Cocoa and Chocolate Network (WINCC). Helping women to create relationships between those who cultivate cacao, transform it, sell the final products and those who offer education is very important. And I think it’s the key for things to continue improving. However, positives initiatives are plentiful and we should talk more about them. In many cacao producing countries, women cooperatives or cooperatives run by women are put in place. I’m thinking, among others, about the Cooperative des femmes entrepreneurs de Côte d’Ivoire (COFENCI) or Kuapa Kokoo in Ghana. More than a third of the members of this cooperative are women, and they are represented on all the committees. In Peru, the Cooperativa Agraria Cafetalera Pangoa, that cultivates coffee and cacao, has a women as general manager, Esperanza Dionisio Castillo, and she is respected by all. Esperanza Dionisio Castillo, General Manager of C.A.C. Pangoa Those are only some examples of positive initiatives by and for women in the cacao and chocolate industry. Women in cacao producing countries have more and more opportunities to cultivate and sell their cacao, but they need to have access to market. A well, more and more b2b female chocolate makers are seeking the female producers because they would like to work with them. Not only because they are women, but also because of their high quality cacao! NOTES 1. For further details on the barriers women face in the production of cacao, read the thorough report from UTZ Certified and Solidaridad (2009). 2. However, some select their machines accordingly, buying those that are lighter or easier to move. (Palette de Bine, personal communication). 3. Personal communication with Q’UMA Chocolate, QANTU, Palette de Bine. BIBLIOGRAPHIE Andoh, D. (January 12th 2107). « Female cocoa farmer groups receive support to improve yields », Graphic Online. En ligne: http://www.graphic.com.gh/news/general-news/female-cocoa-farmer-groups-receive-support-to-improve-yields.html. Barrientos, S. (2013). « Gender production networks: Sustaining cocoa-chocolate sourcing in Ghana and India », Brooks World Poverty Institute (no. 186). Manchester. Barometer Consortium (2015). Cocoa Barometer 2015. Online: http://www.cocoabarometer.org/Home.html International Food Policy Research Institute. (2002). Empowering Women and Fighting Poverty: Cocoa and Land Rights in West Africa: International Food and Policy Research Institute; Dalberg analysis. Oxfam. https://www.oxfam.org/sites/www.oxfam.org/files/gender-inequality-cocoa-ivory-coast.pdf. The Gender and Cocoa Livelihoods Toolbox, http://genderandcocoalivelihoods.org/ UTZ Certified and Solidaridad. (2009). The role of certification and producer support in promoting gender equality in cocoa production. Online: https://utzcertified.org/attachments/article/92/CocoaGenderUTZSolidaridad_2009.pdf. World Cocoa Foundation. Online: http://www.worldcocoafoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/files_mf/womenincocoafarming_presentations.pdf
(This blog post was first published on the Uniterra Volunteer Blog.) During our trip to Peru, Isabella and I met Samir Giha and Eduardo Lanfranco from Cacaosuyo. We shared some great conversations with them at the Salón del Cacao y el Chocolate and when we visited their factory. Since 2012, Samir and Eduardo have made one of the best chocolates in the world. Their products have received several awards in two prestigious competitions (International Chocolate Awards et Academy of Chocolate Awards). Cacaosuyo barsPhoto credits: Cacaosuyo Samir and Eduardo were both working in fields completely unrelated to chocolate before starting their chocolate company. Samir was at one time a pop singer, the owner of a record company. He even was a textile exporter, taking the influence for the colourful geometric patterns of Cacaosuyo’s packaging from traditional Peruvian fabrics. Eduardo, on his side, studied economics and has been an investor in various projects, mostly related to hydroelectricity. However, he was introduced to chocolate at a very young age by his mother, a confectioner. Samir Giha and Eduardo Lanfranco, founders of Cacaosuyo. Photo credits: Trome.pe After they me at the Salón del Cacao in Lima in 2012 , Samir and Eduardo decided to start a chocolate business together. They soon realized that Peru grows a lot of native and very aromatic cacao. At that time, the Piura region was already known for its white cacao (cacao blanco), and that is where the two entrepreneurs looked for the best cacao beans to make the best chocolate. For more than a year, they learnt how to ferment and dry cacao beans with the Venezuelan expert Gladys Ramos. The fermentation and drying of the beans are two post-harvest steps usually made by the producers themselves or the cooperatives. Cacaosuyo’s founders decided to take on these steps: they built post-harvest centres in the regions where they buy beans. As Samir told us, fermentation and drying are critical to get good beans. Even when genetics are good, cacao can be ruined if those steps are not done properly. In this film clip, Samir explains why it is better for a chocolate maker to master the post-harvest processes usually done at the plantation. Bean-to-bar makers learn to make the best chocolate with the beans they receive, even if there are some defects. Sometimes, they even need to throw out an entire lot of costly cacao beans. That is why Cacaosuyo decided to take care of the post-harvest process, instead of buying dry cacao. Samir and Eduardo buy wet beans, as soon as they are removed from the pods, which is rather unusual. Even if it is a much more expensive way of buying cacao, they work directly with the cacao producers, selecting the trees that produce the finest aromatic cacao for their chocolate. They pay 66% more for the wet beans and they hire employees and engineers on site in each region. Samir and Eduardo often travel to meet the producers and keep strong links with them. For Eduardo, it is really important that the farmers know who is behind Cacaosuyo. Samir and Eduardo talked a lot about how they work, about their relationship with cacao producers and about the importance of giving them a fair price, but not through certifications. They also emphasized the fact that direct trade is not always easy for a chocolate maker that lives outside Peru: logistics are often in the way! What stands out in this interview with Samir is the fact that direct trade is multifaceted and that is important to find solutions so that more bean-to-bar makers can grow direct relationship with farmers. A platform like Yellowseed is already a game-changer! With Samir Giha and Eduardo Lanfranco, of Cacaosuyo
Business delegation in Peru
(This blog post was first published on the Uniterra Volunteer Blog.) I came back some weeks ago from a wonderful trip to Peru with five other Quebecers working in the chocolate industry: Isabella, my colleague at Miss Choco, Daniel and Alcina (Chocolats Monarque, Montréal), and Sylviane and Narada (Chocolaterie Le Cacaoyer, L’Assomption). We went to Peru as “business volunteers” thanks to the Uniterra program, created by CECI and WUSC-EUMC. During those two weeks, we had the opportunity to meet with Peruvian bean-to-bar chocolate makers (1), visit plantations in the region of San Martin and meet professionals from all over the world that are involved in the chocolate industry. Our delegation on the first day in Lima. With Christian Clément and Roy Vera Chung. Credits: Roy Vera Chung This trip to Peru was very special for me for a lot of different reasons. First of all, I visited my first cacao plantation in this country, in October of 2010. I was put in contact with Norandino (a coop from Piura, called at that time Cepicafe), thanks to Martin Christy (2). I was reading about chocolate for two years, but it was not yet the true passion that would change my life. I can say for sure that my passion was born there, in this small cacao farm in Buenos Aires, Peru. My first cacao plantation visit in Buenos Aires (Piura) in 2010. The fact that WUSC-EUMC was one of the organizations involved in our delegation is another reason explaining why this trip was so special for me. During my studies at l’UQAM, I was a volunteer in our local committee. I was very happy to be involved again in a WUSC project and to get to know their Peruvian team! Our delegation visited their office in Lima, where we had the pleasure of meeting the executive director, Chris Eaton, who is based in Ottawa but traveling to Peru during the same time. We had several in-depth discussions with him about our work, bean-to-bar chocolate, cacao trade, etc. At the WUSC office in Lima.Credits: Isabella Geddes. In planning our visit to Peru, I was looking forward to seeing Francesca Valdivia again, founder of Q’uma Chocolate. It was in part because of her that our delegation was made possible. Francesca is a young, passionate and inspiring woman. The connexion between us was instantaneous. She came to Montreal last April for the Salon International de l’Alimentation (SIAL) and during that time, she also visited my store, La Tablette de Miss Choco. The idea of going to Peru to attend the Salon del Cacao y el Chocolate originated at that meeting. If you would like to know more about her, read this article on CECI’s website. Discussion with Francesca Valdivia from Q’uma Chocolate.Credits: Isabella Geddes Francesca and I, as well as the Miss Choco team, share the same vision on a lot of issues, including direct trade and the importance of education to further develop the artisanal bean-to-bar movement. Isabella and I talked a lot with Francesca about how she buys cacao beans. In the following video, she explains why it is so important for her to buy directly from the farmers and to personally know the producers, not only the coop administrators. In Peru, we went to the factory were Francesca makes chocolate. It’s in Pachacamac, a suburb of Lima, in the middle of the desert. The factory is owned by Lisi Montoya (Shattell), another female bean-to-bar chocolate maker. Francesca shares Lisi’s equipment, but she plans on setting up her own factory in the next year. Lisi and Francesca are a sign that the chocolate and cacao industry in Peru are undergoing profound change. Men are still the major presence in cacao plantations and bean-to-bar chocolate factories but increasingly women are getting involved. Isabella and I were lucky enough to discuss this issue with Francesca during the Salón del Cacao y el Chocolate Perú. As you will hear in the following video (in Spanish), she wishes that more women will be involved in cacao cultivation. She also points out that, in her view, it is important for women to help each other in Peru. Francesca Valdivia with Bertilla Mori. Credits: Francesca Valdivia It is an undeniable fact, the chocolate industry is quickly changing in Peru. In the coming years, it will be interesting to follow it’s development. I will talk about that in my next article. Stay tuned! (1) Bean-to-bar: the chocolate maker buys the cacao beans and make everything from the scratch. (2) Martin Christy is, amongst other things, the founder of the Seventy Percent website and also one of the founder of the International Chocolate Awards.