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Case study - cayat

Cocoa and the Ivory Coast

Globally, it is estimated that there are around six million cocoa farmers and between 40 and 50 million people who depend on cocoa for their livelihood (World Cocoa Foundation). CacaoNet estimate 70% of total cocoa production comes from Africa (predominantly Ghana and Ivory Coast in West Africa). Europe is the largest importer of cocoa beans worldwide, with 56% of global imports (CBI Ministry of Foreign Affairs 2022).

On the surface, the cocoa sector appears to be male dominated as the majority of farms are owned by men (the Fairtrade Foundation reported in 2020 that only 25% of women cocoa farmers in Ivory Coast own their land), and it is the landowners who bring the beans to the collection sites and receive the payment.

However, according to a report by Fairtrade Foundation titled ‘The Invisible Women Behind our Chocolate’, women account for two thirds of the labour force. Many co-operatives have now established women focussed initiatives to improve access to training, inputs including seedlings and financial services in order to strengthen women’s involvement in the cocoa sector and reduce gender inequalities.


CAYAT is a cocoa and coffee farming co-operative, based around the towns of Adzopé and Yakassé-Attobrou in the South East of Ivory Coast. Like many areas across Ivory Coast, the La Mé region where CAYAT is located is home to many cocoa farmers who depend on the crop to earn a sustainable income.

CAYAT was founded by a group of farmers whose aim was to bring cocoa farmers together and address the region's deep socio-economic challenges, while advancing sustainable agriculture and increasing farmers' incomes.

The co-operative started with 283 members and has since grown to over 3,300 members. Through their range of social impact projects, commitment to fair trade, environmental conservation and innovation, CAYAT have positioned themselves as a leader in the sector.

In 2012, CAYAT received Fairtrade certification for their cocoa. In 2013, they were certified by Rainforest Alliance and UTZ. CAYAT are also certified by 4C Association for their coffee and are in the process of obtaining organic certification.

Yao N’guettia, General Secretary of the Board of CAYAT, said: 

We do everything to assure our producers that we can go far together.” 

CAYAT has used the premium received from the sales of their Fairtrade cocoa to implement social impact projects supporting employees, their members and the wider community.

In 2015, CAYAT created an ‘Association of Women’ in order to train women farmers to play a more important role in the co-operative. Since then, the Association has grown to over 500 members.

Awa Traoré has been the Director General of CAYAT since 2017. Awa is also a graduate of Fairtrade Africa’s Women’s School of Leadership (WSOL) established to support more women to take on leadership roles within their local economies and societies.

Awa told us: 

“We have demonstrated the important role women play in society. We have demonstrated that women must take a leading position in order to change things in our society.” 

CAYAT became a customer of Shared Interest in 2016 with an Export Credit (COEC) facility to enable them to purchase cocoa beans from their members. This facility has been steadily increased in line with the growth of the business.

Awa said: 

“For us, it is important to create the Union to restore social justice first, and then women can play a role in the community development, it is important for women to have autonomy so that they can work alongside their husbands and provide for the needs of their family.”

Rosine Aké Bekoin, General Secretary of the CAYAT Women's Association.has been a cocoa farmer since 2000. She received two hectares of land from her grandmother to start her cocoa farm. Access to land is a great challenge for women living in the rural communities, especially land to grow cocoa, which is a long-term production crop.

Rosine was motivated by the support CAYAT could provide to her, which she described as: “first, a guaranteed market, but also training, quality improvement, premiums, and equipment”. Since joining CAYAT, Rosine has received training in Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), and participated in the Women School of Leadership, a programme coordinated by Fairtrade Africa and funded by ‘Équité.

Rosine, pictured right, explained the impact of this training: 

“Many of us were illiterate but with the training offered by CAYAT, we can now read and write a little. Thanks to the CAYAT training, I now know how to save, engage in agricultural good practices, and help others.”

Rosine has also been able to increase her production from 250kg to 2,000kg. In addition to farming cocoa, Rosine also grows cassava, which she sells on the local market. She is also employed by CAYAT as a Nursery Attendant where, together with three other women, she oversees the development of the shade trees before they are distributed to the farmers.

Rosine’s ambition is to support the women at CAYAT to go into full-time agro-processing and value addition, she also wants to create a brand, which is recognised across the whole country. Her personal ambition is to become a processor or even the director of a processing company. She said: 

“Here, after harvesting the cacao, men often find themselves without money, so women help them by working, to bring money into the household and pay for the children’s education. The situation can sometimes be difficult.”

“Thanks to these jobs, all the women involved in CAYAT have been able to put their children in school and to take decision for themselves. Without this, we’re nothing. Today, we put oil in our husband’s motorbikes when they go into the fields. This wasn’t the case before. We used to have to save up individually, but we now also have our own savings and loans association exclusively for women, in addition to the scheme for both men and women. 


If you want to learn more about our 2023 longitudinal case study featuring CAYAT, please click here.

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