For the children’s sake
The voices rise from the field in harmony.
One woman sings a lyric and the choir of women farmers chant it back like an echo as they work the land with smiles on their faces...
Bah yô kpa
...they intone: ‘For the children’s sake.’
Late, under the shade of a thatched roof made of branches and leaves, Aya Kouadio mixes her cassava one last time. Grated down to the consistency of couscous, this particular bowl is due to be cooked for a village celebration, but on another day, it would have been heading to the nearest market to be sold. Aya is proud of the product. As President of the Koffessou Women’s Group, she helped hand-plant the cassava field along with the other women in the group.
The group was suggested by a member of the Nestlé Cocoa Plan team who helped the women negotiate with the village chief to set aside a small section of land for them to work collectively.
Traditionally, it is the men who plant the cash crops, while the women help their husbands and tend to small patches of land to grow vegetables or spices to vary the family’s diet. But the new group allowed the women to grow their own vegetables commercially – their collective effort giving them the scale they needed.
“Before this group existed we only used to work in our husbands’ fields, now we have something that belongs to us,” Aya explains. “Even though we still work with our husbands, I think that having our own project helps us.”
The proceeds are split evenly or channelled to a particular person in need as required. “It means that if a child needs a pen, pencil or chalk to go to school, [and can’t afford it] the group can buy it for them,” Aya says. “It means that all the children can go to school now.”
The encouragement from Nestlé to diversify the village’s range of crops in this way is also welcomed by Aya. “Cocoa cannot always cover all the costs,” she says, “so having another source of income is valuable to us.”
In addition to proposing and setting up the group, the Nestlé Cocoa Plan also provided a petrol driven cassava- grating machine.
“The machine saves the women hours,” says Darrell High, Head of the Nestlé Cocoa Plan. “It can take up to two hours to manually grate a cassava down into a couscous- like substance called Attiéké, which is a very popular way of eating it here.”
Darrell continues: “the machine not only gives the women that time back, it also means that they can charge to grate cassava for other women or sell the finished product in other villages in addition to the raw vegetables.”
Aya and the other women visibly enjoy being part of the group because they have a clear motivation. “We do it for the children,” says Aya. “We want to help the children, and we want to help their mothers too.”
The Nestlé Cocoa Plan provided a petrol-driven cassava-grating machine
The new group allowed the women to grow their own vegetables commercially
Increases in income are eleven times more likely to impact children’s welfare if they are in women’s hands than men’s
Number of women supported with income-generating activities