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Oxfam confronts Mondelez, Nestlé and Mars over women’s rights on cocoa farms

By Oliver Nieburg+

07-Mar-2013

Oxfam has called on the three biggest chocolate manufacturers to conduct independent audits on conditions for women on cocoa farms supplying their factories after finding evidence of unequal pay, discrimination and hunger.

Oxfam recently published its Behind the Brands scorecard that ranked the top 10 global food and drink firms on supply chain accountability.

Oxfam: Third-party assessment needed

As part of the scorecard, the NGO conducted research in four countries where Nestlé, Mars and Mondelez purchase cocoa and found that women faced unequal pay, discrimination and poverty.

Oxfam has urged the companies to conduct third party assessments on the numbers of women working in their supply chains and to commit to a plan of action to address inequality.

“None of the companies collect and publish any data or information regarding how many women work in their supply chain or the conditions they face,” said the NGO.

Nestlé, Mars and Mondelez, who control 40% of the global cocoa supply, all made an initial response to the Oxfam scorecard, defending their sustainability record and projects on certified cocoa.

Oxfam called the initiatives “piecemeal at best” and said the statements read like “a laundry list of well-known existing projects” that neglected women’s rights on cocoa farms.

Mondelez issues response

Mondelez’s sustainability director Jonathan Horrell defended his company’s record on women’s rights by email.

“As part of our $400m Cocoa Life program, we assess gender questions in the initial needs assessment, tailor programming accordingly and will track outcomes. An example is the women's groups that have been set up in Cocoa Life communities in Ghana to enable women to gain better access to training in good agricultural practices,” he told this site.

Cadbury-maker Mondelez was the last of the top five chocolate firms to launch a large scale sustainable cocoa project when it initiated Cocoa Life in November 2012.

Oxfam says only a small proportion of the price of chocolate reaches the farmer

The $400 million investment over ten years up to 2022 aims to improve the livelihoods of 200,000 cocoa farmers across Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, Indonesia, India, Dominican Republic and Brazil. One of the five focus areas is gender rights, said Horrell.

Mars and Nestlé

Mars did not respond to our calls, but said in its intial response to Oxfam that it was looking forward to strengthening its approach involving women in the community development process.

Nestlé issued a press release highlighting that its highest score on food security over the other top ten food companies, but made little mention of its record on women’s rights, accodring to Oxfam.

Women on cocoa farms

Oxfam said that neither Nestlé, Mondelez nor Mars had signed onto the UN Women’s Empowerment initiative.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that female small-scale farmers in Africa own just 1% of agricultural land, even though 60% of the global agricultural workforce is comprised of women

According to Oxfam, at least 25% of 720,000 small-scale cocoa farmers in the top growing nation Ivory Coast are women, but many also work on cocoa farms as laborers.

The NGO said that some farmers in Nigeria earned $2.04 per kg of cocoa beans, giving them a daily income of less than $2 a day. Women are believed to be paid even less and some female laborers report degrading treatment from male supervisors – some were even fired for demanding equal pay, reports Oxfam.

Marhanah, a 43 year old farmer from Indonesia told the NGO: “Please tell the companies that if the price is not better, it will be difficult to produce in the future…If the welfare of cocoa farmers does not improve, especially for women, cocoa will be replaced.”