12 March 2015

Women in focus – Nestlé and ICI: A simple plant makes schooling possible

Nestlé and ICI: A simple plant makes schooling possible

Empowering women working in the cocoa communities of West Africa is one way in which ICI-member Nestlé is addressing child labour. Together with the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI), Nestlé helps women to generate enough income to send their children to school – knowing that education is one of he most effective ways to tackle child labour, but that families often don’t have the means for school fees. A key facilitator in this process is a simple and humble plant: the cassava.


The contribution Ivorian women make to cocoa production frequently goes unrecognised. Men collect payment for the cocoa, so the women’s share is dependent on her relationship with the man. If you can help women generate more income from their activities, so the theory goes, there is more chance that the income will be spent on the family, including sending children to school. So Nestlé and the ICI have set themselves a target of helping women earn enough to pay for two children to get an education.


Cassava is one of the world’s most drought resistant crops, capable of growing in almost any kind of soil. Now this powerful weapon in the fight against hunger is proving useful in another battle – to stamp out child labour in the cocoa-growing communities of West Africa. Cassava is traditionally grown by women. Helping more of them to develop small businesses as cassava growers fits with the cultural practices of these communities. Besides the growing of food crops for the family to eat, part of the production can be sold, giving them a direct income. This reinforces their status both within their households and their communities.


In order to grow cassava and generate additional income, women have to be able to access a piece of farmland in their community. This proves to be not as straightforward as one would think. Women have very little access to land in their villages. It can be hard to convince the village chief to provide the land for a demonstration plot. Persuading husbands and leaders for projects like this can take up to three months and requires a lot of dialogue with different members of the community. Nick Weatherill, the Executive Director of the ICI says “where we have projects up and running, the initial results have been encouraging. The women we have helped are making more money than they need to send two of their children to school.”

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