Cocoa and cash, culture and chocolate: a feminist analysis of ‘free’ and ‘fair’ trade in Ghana and Britain

Kristy Leissle. “Cocoa and cash, culture and chocolate: a feminist analysis of ‘free’ and ‘fair’ trade in Ghana and Britain.” Diss. U of Washington, 2008.

This dissertation uses feminist commodity chain analysis to study the cocoa-chocolate trade in Ghana, the world's second-largest cocoa-producing country, and Britain, Europe's largest consumer market for chocolate by market value. I show that uneven development levels between Ghana and Britain -- whereby Ghanaian farmers are not only remunerated poorly for their labor, but suffer from a lack of basic needs infrastructure and access to processed commodities that most chocolate-consuming Britons enjoy -- are maintained through gendered political economic structures and cultural discourses at global, national, and local levels that are largely unfavorable to women. Linking these issues is the gendering of the 'figure' of the cocoa farmer, as female in Britain and as male in Ghana: this figure is central to the allocation of development resources. In the British fair trade chocolate market, I claim that visual images of Ghanaian women cocoa farmers in advertisements are both records and devices of political economic interactions at various scales, and are as much a part of development 'reality' as any aid contribution or intervention in producer price. In the Ghanaian context, my gendered analysis of the patrimonial state and of cocoa exports as the major source of development revenue shows that though development in Ghana has been precluded by a raced political economy of trade and accumulation between Africa and Europe, Ghana's continued reliance upon cocoa exports and its current state of under-development is also a function of Ghanaian narratives of gender, development, and labor, whereby development depends upon the labor of the male cocoa farmer and development rewards extend to men. Ghanaian farmers recognize the deeply ingrained cultural value of hard work as the most important causative factor of farming success, though issues of land ownership and gender inequities circumscribe possibilities for hard work among women, and for receiving just compensation for work they do perform. I also show through a comparison of two cocoa buying companies that there is no separate and alternative fair trade system, and no inherently dichotomous moral opposition between 'fair' and 'free' trade, such that 'fair' trade is ethically superior to 'free' in its development practices.

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