A STORY ON WOMEN'S EMPOWERMENT IN INDIA
"MONDELĒZ TREATED ME LIKE ONE OF THEIR OWN FAMILY MEMBERS, ESPECIALLY DURING THE FIRST THREE OR FOUR YEARS WHEN I PLANTED MY [COCOA] CROP. BECAUSE I'M NOT EDUCATED, I DIDN'T KNOW WHAT INPUTS TO PUT [ON THE TREES], BUT MONDELĒZ TOLD ME WHAT TO ADD TO HELP GROW MY COCOA, AND IT WORKED. FOR ALL THAT, THEY WERE THERE WITH ME."
Radha, a cocoa farmer from Kerala, India
Cocoa was introduced to India in 1965 when an experimental cocoa farm was set up in Kerala by Cadbury India Ltd. (now Mondelez India). As cocoa became a viable crop for farmers to generate additional income, it was initially extended to the neighboring state of Karnataka and later to Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. Many people in the region still refer to cocoa trees as ‘Cadbury trees’. Over the years, more than 100,000 farmers have been associated with cocoa in these communities. To help these farmers and their communities improve their livelihoods and community development, Cocoa Life has provided training in good agricultural practices, gender equality, finance and good environmental practices. Women in cocoa farming regions have become drivers of socio-economic and environmental change for their families and the forests around their communities; and many are in-charge of their families’ farms and have become the breadwinners.
Read Radha’s story below to learn more about women’s empowerment that is yielded through cocoa farming:
Radha is a cocoa farmer from the Padicappu Tribal Settlement in Kerala, India. She is a fearless and proud woman, who single-handedly took on the cocoa seedling planting and farming process as part of the Cocoa Life program four years ago, quickly securing a stable income for her family’s future. She currently manages one acre of farmland with both young and yielding cocoa trees.
To support remote tribal communities, like Radha’s, Cocoa Life developed a program that included the distribution of high-quality cocoa seedlings and training on good agricultural practices. Technical experts from Cocoa Life would also regularly visit the farms to ensure the farmers were implementing the good agricultural practices from the post-planting stage to harvesting. As a result, over the last four years Radha has developed new skills and learned the nuances of cocoa farming, thereby allowing her to improve yields and produce higher quality crops.
Radha is also a natural innovator. Through training received from Cocoa Life, Radha learned that raking leaves around the base of her cocoa tree was a natural means of keeping the soil fertile. When she began cocoa farming, she found that the regular sickle used for moving leaves around the farm floor was inefficient and challenging to use. She innovated to create her own tool, called an eeta (a kind of broom) for moving the leaves under the trees.
Additionally, given cocoa pods are hard to break, she initiated a project with her brother-in-law to create a blunt tool out of wood which would break the pods and open them in an efficient way without damaging the beans.
These skills have allowed cocoa farming to become a stable source of income for Radha, compared to other forms of work in the area: "We get a weekly income. If we break a few cocoa pods and sell the cocoa beans, we'll get enough income immediately to pay for our needs". This stability allows Radha to support her family financially and bring in more frequent payments than her husband.
Radha is motivated to work as a cocoa farmer to build a bright future for her children. She dreams of supporting them through higher education, where they will have opportunities to serve in government jobs.
Radha wants to make cocoa farming an interesting livelihood opportunity for other women, and envisions a future of an empowered line of female cocoa farmers. Whilst women were previously largely occupied with domestic work, Radha is a great example of how becoming a woman farmer can raise women’s responsibility and status in the community. Lissy, a fellow cocoa farmer in Kerala reiterates this, stating:
"Women are at the forefront today…. Women's empowerment has definitely happened here. The men do not oppose us, there's money [continuously] coming."
A STORY ON ENVIRONMENT IN INDIA
"IF THERE ARE FORESTS, IT IS GOOD FOR ALL ANIMALS… IF THERE IS NO FOREST, WE DON’T HAVE ANYTHING, TEMPERATURES WILL RISE, AND OUR FARMS WILL ALSO GET DAMAGED…"
Samrajyam, a cocoa farmer from Andhra Pradesh, India