A coffee plant in a Hamburg office building: Our team member Hermann Kouassi from Ivory Coast is well surprised; “It is very good to see it growing even here. But we have better cherries”, he smiles. Hermann is visiting us at Headquarters in Hamburg to exchange work and to develop new projects. He is working along with his local colleagues in the gender project “Improving Gender Relations in Farming Households and Communities in Côte d’Ivoire” funded by the Jacobs Foundation in Ivory Coast. As implementing partner Hanns R. Neumann Stiftung is targeting cocoa and coffee farmers. “We are meeting the couples in the farmer field schools which we set up in previous projects. So this makes our projects holistic and self-contained.” Approaching households with traditional role models is not always easy. “We have one try“, Hermann explains. If the project doesn’t convince the couples to participate in the first session, there will not be a second chance to reach out to them. “But we have 150 percent success rate”, Hermann ensures laughing. One instrument is to give out cards to the participating men in the first session. Each time they want to say something, they have to give back a card. The women can say as much as they want without using cards. Quickly all the cards are spend by the men. They remain silent and listen to their wives speak. “By that they learn how it feels not to be able to have a say”, Hermann and his colleagues found out. In the couple seminars they trigger a dialogue in the households about basic questions: decisions on investments on the cocoa and coffee fields or at home are made together, roles are redefined or new activities like buying livestock are discussed. Some farmers own a small-business besides cocoa or coffee farming. Many of them are closed, when the husband is in the cocoa or coffee field. After participating in the seminar they remain open because the wives start taking over during that time.

“Our impact is so big. I couldn’t imagine such results before we started.”

Hermann knows how the farmers are feeling: he owns a hectare of cocoa himself. That’s also why he knows what is the best sign for the success of his work; the smiles of farmers. “I am coming to the farms and they are smiling at me. To achieve that, that is my motivation. We can see that we really gave something to them”, he says. The improved gender relations help both the household and the productivity of the cocoa and coffee farms.

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