Changing Women’s Lives through Cocoa

In Tanzania, TechnoServe is developing solutions to foster a new generation of women leaders like Mama Crize in the cocoa value chain.

Mama Crize, 43, became a leader in her community after participating in TechnoServe’s Cocoa Quality and Market Access program.

Crize Kisungu – known in her community as Mama Crize – crouches over a large pile of dried cocoa. She sifts through the pods, selecting those of the highest quality. “I have the qualities of a good leader,” she says. “I am confident, I am hard working, I am able to cooperate with other members and be proactive.”

Although women contribute a large share of cocoa labor on the farm – such as planting, pruning, and harvesting – they are rarely informed of just how much income the cocoa is providing for their families, and few fruits of their labors make it to their own pockets.

Mama Crize, however, is working to change this dynamic within her community. At age 43, she lives with her four children in Kisyosyo, a rural town in the Kyela District of southwest Tanzania. While she grows a number of crops, such as rice and maize, on her three acres of land, her most lucrative crop is cocoa, despite the fact that she never received formal training in its cultivation.

Mama Crize stands in the doorway of the Tujikomboe Farmer Business Group, where she was unanimously elected treasurer.

In a strong cocoa supply chain, strong women take on new roles in household economies

Motivated to provide a better life for her family, Mama Crize participated in trainings delivered by the Cocoa Quality and Market Access (CQMA) program. A partnership between TechnoServe and Irish Aid, the program aimed to help cocoa farmers to increase their incomes. On the farm level, CQMA trained farmers in good agricultural practices and post-harvest handling techniques to increase the quantity and quality of their yields, and coupled these sessions with modules in financial literacy, giving farmers important business skills to ensure their greater harvests are reflected in better profits for their farming businesses.

In order to further amplify benefits to farmers like Mama Crize, CQMA also worked with Farmer Business Groups (FBGs), helping them to more effectively aggregate and commercialize cocoa at higher prices for farmers.

By building strong cocoa markets, initiatives like CQMA create spaces where hard working women can realize their full potential within their communities, taking on greater leadership and decision-making roles as farmers and businesspeople.

In 2013, Mama Crize became one of the founding members of Tujikomboe Farmer Business Group in her community. She opened the doors of her home for Tujikomboe’s initial weekly meetings, which played a formative role in getting the group off the ground. When Tujikomboe conducted elections for leadership positions, her 15 fellow members unanimously elected Mama Crize as treasurer of the FBG.

“I liked being the treasurer,” she explains. “The group trusted me in this role. I was responsible with the group’s finances and managing money from the cocoa sales and the money distributions to members. I also maintained records of all our transactions.”

Mama Crize acted as treasurer of Tujikomboe until the end of 2015, during which time Tujikomboe was able to expand its operations. Beyond her lasting impact as treasurer, however, Mama Crize paved the way for future female leadership in Kisyosyo. “In the past, it was very difficult for women to become leaders because many people, including the women themselves, didn’t have the knowledge that women can be good leaders. But now it’s easier, because people understand that women can be good leaders.”

TechnoServe teams are strategically improving the way their projects identify and eliminate barriers to forming equitable decision-making surrounding cocoa resources, labor, and income.

Creating strategic approaches to opening doors for women in cocoa production

While stronger value chains open the doors for women and other traditionally excluded groups to prosper within the marketplace, stories like Mama Crize’s inspire TechnoServe teams to more strategically improve the way their projects identify and eliminate barriers to forming equitable decision-making surrounding cocoa resources, labor, and income.

In order to provide more enterprising women with the opportunity to become successful leaders, TechnoServe led a gender analysis of Tanzania’s cocoa sector in 2015. Findings from the analysis – which involved 302 cocoa farmers (65 percent of whom were women), and leaders from 38 cocoa farmer groups – led to the design and implementation of targeted pilot approaches for fostering female participation in cocoa production.

Based on the analysis’s results, TechnoServe developed solutions that eliminate even subtle obstacles inhibiting a more inclusive cocoa value chain. One such innovation was to encourage husbands and wives to attend training together. Simply providing both husband and wife with the same technical knowledge has been proven through TechnoServe projects in coffee and other value chains to open up household communication; when two people share the same information, decision-making organically becomes a more inclusive process.

TechnoServe also backs up these “easy-win” innovations with a 12-module training curriculum that addresses gender directly in group discussions, as well as focusing on financial literacy and savings. Recognizing that women and men have differing household responsibilities, TechnoServe business mentors offer makeup trainings to accommodate participants who are unable to attend the original training session. By providing a flexible schedule with multiple times to attend trainings, women and men are more likely to participate and reap the benefits of training.

Initial feedback is promising, as one male participant, Edward, says, “I used to be someone who treated my wife bad. I saw that cocoa was my own thing and not my wife’s.” However, after participating in the gender-focused CQMA pilot, Edward’s wife, Ester, says, “If you take his power and my power you can come together and be stronger…. We sit together and plan, maybe we can use this [money] to send the kids to school, maybe we can build a house.”

After the pilot’s end in late 2017, TechnoServe teams will analyze the effectiveness of these approaches and their implications for projects in different communities, value chains, and industries around the world. For her part, Mama Crize is equally motivated in her pursuit of this objective in her own community, encouraging other women to take leadership roles in Kisyosyo.

Not surprisingly for a woman of her drive, Mama Crize’s example will foster an even greater impact than even she might imagine. One of the findings from TechnoServe’s gender analysis is that higher rates of female leadership in FBGs lead to greater average female membership.

Luckily for the women cocoa farmers of Kisyosyo, they have Mama Crize to lead the charge.