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Empowering Rural Women In Central and West Africa

Thousands of women in rural communities in Central and West Africa are reaping the rewards from Nestle’s agricultural support and capacity-building programmes to increase their yields, crop quality and income levels.

The company, which relies on smallholder farmers and farm workers to help supply agricultural raw materials needed for its products, is contributing to the sustainable development of rural areas where they work through initiatives such as the cocoa plan and the grains quality improvement project.

Nestle’s commitment to empower and support rural women is part of its 39 pledges highlighted in the Nestle CWAR — Nestle in society report 2015 (English PDF) that covers nutrition, water, rural development, environmental sustainability and compliance, which it aims to fulfill by 2020 or earlier.

Its efforts highlight the importance of the United Nation’s International Day of Rural Women on October 15, to recognise “the critical role and contribution of rural women, including indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty.”

Nestle also aims to contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goal 2 which seeks to “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.”

Mother-of-three Agathe Vanie is one of the thousands of women benefiting from the NestIe Cocoa Plan.

The company aims to roll out the Nestle Cocoa Plan with cocoa farmers as part of its commitment to invest in rural communities. Active in Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana since 2009, it looks to increase farmers’ profitability, secure high-quality cocoa for Nestle, and address supply chain issues such as child labour, gender inequality and poor social conditions.

Cocoa farmer Agathe is also President of COPAZ, a cocoa cooperative based in Divo in central-western Cote d’Ivoire, mainly composed of, and led by women.

Her organisation, the Association of Female Coffee-Cocoa Producers of Sud-Bandama (AFPCC), is the first female owned cooperative for cocoa and coffee production. In 2010, her cooperative joined the NestIO Cocoa Plan.

“In our tradition, cocoa farming was only reserved for men. We fought to get portions of land from our spouses and the NestIO Cocoa Plan supports us,” said Agathe.

Nestle, who works with partners such as the Fair Labor Association and International Cocoa Initiative as part of the Plan, has provided her 600 women cooperative with high-yield, disease-resistant cocoa seedlings and the technical assistance necessary to set up a nursery.

The company has also bought the cooperative a delivery truck to help them distribute the cocoa beans.

Last year alone, 27% of Nestlé Cocoa Plan nurseries were run by women and 66 women’s groups were helped through income-generating activities as part of the Plan.

Nestlé is also backing rural women by committing to increase local sourcing through its Grains Quality Improvement Project (GQIP).

Launched in Ghana and Nigeria in 2007 with the Ministries of Agriculture and Rural Development and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), it aims to improve the quality and safety of grains by reducing the high levels of mycotoxins and boost the overall health of rural communities through the consumption of good quality and safe grains.

Maize farmer Alidu Samata, who is based in Ghanaian village of Gushie, Tamale, joined the Nestlé GQIP in 2010.

She is one of the thousands of female farmers who have received training on the project to improve their capacity and their livelihoods.

The mother-of-seven has been able to transform her production of 4-5 bags per acre to 10-12 bags, after using skills taught by Nestlé agronomists.

“The impact on the community has been immense,’’ said Alidu. “I can now pay my children’s school fees and can afford to sew them school uniforms. Now I even have some extra income.”

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