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Meet the women farmers in our supply chain

In celebration of International Women’s Day 2016, we asked our field officers to interview women farmers across our supply chains to find out whether working with Olam had improved opportunities for their daughters. The case studies below are directly from the women with no ‘doctoring’ other than some slight amends to the English. In no way, however, does Olam claim to be changing the lives of these women overnight. Here’s how Moray McLeish, our CR&S manager in Asia puts it:

“Women have always been involved in subsistence agriculture, often doing the hard work of harvesting and carrying crops to the point of sale. But often they are not involved in the sale, so they contribute labour and time but get no money in hand.

“Olam’s arrival in an area can change the picture somewhat for women in 3 main ways by:

  • Bringing tools and training to women subsistence farmers which reduces labour/time inputs per unit of output.
  • Buying directly from and paying directly to the person who hands the crop over (or maybe helping them open a bank account to bypass cash in hand) – so not giving the money to the husband
  • And / or by mechanising production and shifting jobs (especially for women) into processing (e.g. sorting coffee beans, de-hulling cashew nuts) – this isn’t stimulating but is probably preferable to being out in the sun or rain farming.

“In each case you can see how a woman is given the chance to work and get money in hand, which is empowering. She can then choose how to spend some or all of it. A choice she may not have been involved in when all the cash was in male hands. So she may choose to focus on better nutrition, education, or healthcare (for children). Or, equally, she may choose to invest in her home or the farm.”

Awang, Olam Coffee, Indonesia

“I am grateful to work in Olam’s coffee mill and have been here for four years. Since working here, I can send my sons and daughter to high school level. This makes me very happy. I can also support my family with healthcare, and we’re more or less healthy.

“In our house, boys and girls are equal – there is no difference in their school or in love and care. I believe we have to be fair with them.

“My big hope is that my daughter and sons have a good future, better than me. If company has a scholarship that’s great so I could send my kids to university.”


Chekedy Happiness, Coffee Farmer, Cameroon

“I see myself today being a more enlightened women than 6 years back. I saved hard to buy my farm, but it was in very bad condition when I started and my harvests were low.

My main source of livelihood is coffee which pays for most of my needs. After I received trainings on Good Agricultural Practices my yield have improved and I am now a trainer for Olam’s Arabica coffee project. I have sponsored healthcare and education for my family with the money many times, and my daughter is in lower sixth at school now.

I am pleased that today my daughter has more opportunities open to her than me, since she has had a better education. Even though boys still have more opportunities, I think the future of small holder farming is going to be bright. Young people in my community are opening new farms thanks to Olam which has been an eye opener and made farmers know there is money in coffee.”

cheekedy happiness

Mrs. Haji Devi, 55, South Kolaka, Sulawesi, Indonesia

“When my husband passed 10 years ago, I started growing cocoa to support my three children but my hope for a better income from cocoa became less and less every year with disease and bad harvests.

Since then, the training, supports and motivation I have received from Olam helps me be more knowledgeable and energetic and I have increased my farm’s cocoa production. I am hopeful that if this situation remains, my family’s economy will be improved. The most important thing is that I can provide good education for my three children so they can have a brighter future and better possibilities in their life.

I promise to share my gained knowledge and encourage other farmers to put lots of efforts and maximise the benefits from the valuable knowledge, skills and supports of the Program so there will be more successful cocoa farmers from my village.”

haji devi


Hemlata, Sugar, India

 “My farm is inherited property. We grow sugarcane, cotton and soybean in our 8.46 hectares but the major crop is sugarcane. I look after all of the agri activities at the farm, managing the farm labour and use of inputs.

On average I spend about 6-8 hours on the farm and related activities. I started sugarcane cultivation in 2012 and since then I sell all our produce to the Olam sugar factory located in the Barwani district. I sincerely appreciate the technical, financial and input support extended by the factory for sugarcane cultivation and the prompt payment for produce sold to Olam. I participated in capacity building and technical training under the Farmer Support Programme (FSP) by the technical experts from Olam and its partners.

Both my daughters have received the best education due to our financial strength as a result of the sugarcane cultivation encouraged by the factory.  My elder daughter is doing a post graduate course in commerce and the younger one is doing science. I received less education than my daughters because now our income has increased and facilities like school, college, transportation is better and more easily available. Also respect for educated family is greater in the community, and education empowers females in contributing to society and our country.

I buy all the health care for my family and also we brought health care insurance policy for our family.”


Surekha Sanjay Patil, Sugar, India

 “For the last 50-60 years we have been living on our 2 hectare farm, it is ancestral property inherited to us. We mainly grow Sugarcane, Paddy and Sorghum. On our farm my husband and I work on the farm and for some specific work we hire one labourer. On average we invest about 6 hours in the farm each day.

Since 2011 we sell our Sugarcane crop to Olam. Their prompt payment of the sale proceeds, system and process and technological support and guidance in sugarcane cultivation with focus on cost reduction and productivity improvement is most commendable. I have attended the entire training programme on farming and farm management organised by Olam at my village.

I have a daughter of 8 years age and she is studying. I am able to afford her education due to my association with Olam and its partners. Olam helped my kid by providing stationery as a reward.”