A community enterprise is empowering women in West Africa to produce and sell chocolate and become future leaders a year after it was launched.

Co-op helped set up the Fairtrade Africa’s Women’s Leadership School project, which works with women in cocoa farming groups in Ivory Coast, in Spring 2017.

The project hopes to empower the women as future leaders.

It aims to encourage the younger generation to be cocoa farmers as many are choosing to move to the city in search of a more dependable livelihood.

This is because female farmers still face legal, cultural and social barriers in the industry, according to Co-op, which supports the funding of the project.

The firm hopes to empower women as future leaders
Kuapa member Linda poses with two chocolate bars
Kuapa member Linda poses with two chocolate bars

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Those who participate in the leadership school are trained business skills such as decision making, resource management, leadership and human rights.

Co-op says it is passionate about creating sustainability in the cocoa industry by giving female farmers access to training and resources.

It was the first retailer in the world to launch its own brand of Fairtrade chocolate bar.

For almost two decades, it has obtained cocoa from Kuapa Kokoo, an organisation that enables their farmers to invest in improving clean water, healthcare, sanitation and training.

And, as World Chocolate Day approaches on Saturday, it has emerged that more than two million Co-op Fairtrade chocolate bars have been sold worldwide.

Co-op says it is passionate about creating sustainability in the cocoa industry by giving female farmers access to training and resources
Co-op says it is passionate about creating sustainability in the cocoa industry by giving female farmers access to training and resources
A man can be seen working on a cocoa farm in Ivory Coast
A man can be seen working on a cocoa farm in Ivory Coast

An incredible 2.1 million chocolate block bars have been sold since April 2017,

Brad Hill, Co-op’s Fairtrade strategy manager, said: “We have been championing Fairtrade cocoa in Co-op products for almost 20 years so consumers know they’re helping communities in developing countries to get a fair deal.”

“The UK is the world’s biggest Fairtrade market and the world’s fourth biggest consumer of chocolate and this demand for cocoa is only set to rise.”

“It’s imperative that we keep moving forward with sustainabilty initiatives in order to shape this industry and we must help to improve the lives of farming communities who are still suffering a raw deal.”

The UK is the world's largest Fairtrade market
The UK is the world’s largest Fairtrade market

Paul Chandler, a non-executive director of Co-op and former CEO of Traidcraft said: “Empowering women in the workplace and creating more employment for women have long been an integral part of fair trade.”

“There is no doubt that it is often through strengthening the role of women that the most sustainable long-term benefits are provided to communities.”

“The 19th century founders of the co-operative movement recognised this from the outset and gave women opportunities and voting power at a time when this was rare in British society.”

“It is exciting, welcome and strategically important that Co-op is focusing on this aspect of our impact within our cocoa supply chains”.



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