Women beneficiaries of the Liberia Cocoa Sector Improvement Programme (LICSIP), a project implemented by Solidaridad West Africa in Liberia, over the weekend climaxed a one-day networking session at a local resort in Monrovia.
The women, under the banner, Women in Cocoa and Chocolate Network (WINCC) converged for the first time in the same space since the launch of the LISCIP in 2018. The session covered topics including the role of women in the cocoa value chain, women leadership in the cocoa sector, and positioning female change makers in harnessing opportunities within the cocoa value chain.
Prior to the networking session, meetings were confined to women's respective communities, therefore, hindering them from drawing strength and motivation from other women in the cocoa sector, says Rebbeca Kalayi of Becky Agro Enterprise. She made the remarks during her presentation on the role of women in the cocoa value chain.
Also reacting to the networking session, Justina Amara, a cocoa farmer based in Lofa, lauded the women’s network and Solidaridad for such an event. She said, “This event helps us understand our roles and importance as women in the cocoa sector.”
Since the commencement of the post-war era in the country, women's engagement in the cocoa sector has skyrocketed, according to the Deputy Minister of Technical Services, Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), Leelia R. Andrews.
Hon. Andrews, who served as the keynote speaker of the networking session said, “Cocoa farming prior to the civil war was dominated by men. They relied on cocoa for livelihood, provision of food, education, and providing shelter and health for their families. However, the farming trend has changed most especially when women became heads of their families due to the death or disabilities of their husbands. They assumed the role of maintaining family duties.
According to the national crop survey published in 2010-2021, there were 6,910 female cocoa farmers of the 35,960 farmers. The number is increasing as other counties are now engaged in farming.”
Andrews also said that the Liberian government through the agriculture ministry is ensuring that gender balance issues are mainstream in agricultural programs and projects.
“The Government of Liberia, in an effort to improve gender balance, developed the strategy for mainstreaming gender issues in the agricultural program and project at the Ministry of Agriculture. This is the guidance of the ministry for development across all sub-sector including cocoa,” she says.
She also called on the women of the network to continue to progress in the spirit of unity, and thanked Solidaridad and other development partners that collaborated with the Government to sustain women’s empowerment in the cocoa sector.
The Women in Cocoa and Chocolate (WINCC) networking session, initiated by the Centre for Promotion of Imports from developing countries in the Netherlands (CBI), brought together women from various sections of the cocoa sector to engage and share their experiences. WINCC aspires to become a hub from which women can draw strength and motivation.
The main objective of the WINCC, according to Solidaridad, is to create visibility for women in the cocoa sector and kick-start the process of creating a common voice for women in the cocoa sector of Liberia.
In Liberia, Solidaridad West Africa is partnering with the Centre for the Promotion of Imports from developing countries, the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, and other partners to implement the WINCC.