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General News Sun, 10 Feb 2002

Cocoa Farming Can Empower Women - Study

Cocoa farming in Ghana can empower women, reduce poverty and benefit the environment, according to a study published recently by the Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

"Growing cococa enhances the status of women in West Africa and it provides them with an important source of income," according to Agnes Quisumbing, co-author of the report, entitled 'Land, Trees and Women.' Quisumbing led a survey of farmers in villages in Western Ghana to find out how cocoa benefits women, families, communities and the environment.

One of the ways women benefit, the report concludes, is through land acquisition, traditionally denied to women in many parts of West Africa. Through a process known as "gifting," husbands give their wives land rights to cocoa fields in exchange for labour during the early stages of cocoa farming.

"Traditionally, women in West Africa have not been able to inherit land from their husbands. However, with cocoa production, women are obtaining strong rights to land, which in turn enhances their status and long-term security," an IFPRI news release quoted co-author Keirjiro Otsuka as saying on Thursday.

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The research also indicates that when poor women farmers grow cocoa, the whole family benefits. "When women grow cocoa," Quisumbing said, "their increased income is more likely to be used to meet the family's basic needs, including nutrition, health care and education."

Cocoa is an important cash crop for small-scale farmers, who produce almost all of the cocoa grown in Ghana, the news release said. While cocoa plants are young, they can be planted alongside food crops in a practice known as "intercropping". This allows farmers to grow both cocoa and food for their own consumption on the same land and also increase their income.

Cocoa farming is also of benefit to the environment. Intercropping helps to maintain some of the biological diversity the land supported before it was cleared for farming. It can also be grown on hillsides, which helps to prevent soil erosion, IFPRI reported.

Ghana is the world's second largest producer of cocoa after its neighbour, Cote d'Ivoire.

Source: UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
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