Hershey has announced a new three-year program expanding its cocoa farmer training and community initiatives in Ivory Coast, the world’s largest cocoa producing country.
In partnership with cocoa supplier Cargill, Hershey Learn to Grow Ivory Coast encompasses seven farmer cooperatives and includes investments in educational infrastructure and teacher housing. Some 10,000 cocoa farmers will be trained in agricultural and social practices that are independently audited and certified against the UTZ Certified standard. Ultimately, this is expected to help increase how much farmers receive for their cocoa.
Hershey claims farmers will also enjoy long-term improvements to their cocoa harvests by implementing better agricultural practices to improve aging farms. The program will also provide participating Ivory Coast cocoa farmers with a market channel for certified cocoa while they improve their farms.
Hershey is expanding its Learn to Grow farmer training model from established programs in Ghana and Nigeria. The Ivory Coast project is being implemented by Cargill with an established network of farm associations in Ivory Coast where Cargill both sources and processes cocoa.
Cargill will focus in three key areas:
- Good agricultural practices including pruning, safe spraying and effective use of fertilizers.
- Farmer cooperatives infrastructure, including construction of cocoa warehouses and cocoa tree nurseries.
- Education support, including teacher housing, school improvements and raising awareness of child labor issues and children’s rights in farming communities.
Hershey and Cargill have previously collaborated on CocoaLink, a program that uses mobile technology to connect cocoa farmers in Ghana with information about good farming practices, labor safety and crop marketing.
The Grow Ivory Coast program will help Hershey on its path to achieve its goal of buying 100 percent certified cocoa for all of its products worldwide by 2020. Hershey says its percentage of certified cocoa surpassed 18 percent through 2013 and will increase to between 40 and 50 percent by 2016. This comes after Hershey was criticized in 2010 by NGOs and human rights groups for sourcing from African farms which may utilize forced child labor.