Hershey Company to invest $10m to improve conditions in cocoa communities in West Africa

The Hershey Company on Monday said it would expand and accelerate programmes to improve conditions in cocoa communities by investing $10 million in West Africa and continue to work with experts in agriculture, community development and government to achieve progress with cocoa farmers and their families.

Over the next five years, Hershey’s public and private partnerships will directly benefit 750,000 African cocoa farmers and over two million people in cocoa communities across the region, the company said in a statement issued in Accra on Monday.

“Today, West African farmers can increase their cocoa output by 50 per cent through modern methods. Doing so will increase school attendance and improve community health,” it said in the statement.

Hershey has worked with farmers and development organisations for more than 50 years. Most cocoa farmers live on small, isolated family farms. They are eager to improve their farming methods and Hershey Company is investing in major programmes to make them better farmers.

The announcement builds on the company’s cocoa expertise and partnerships and would focus on increasing the income of the Region’s two million cocoa farmers and ensuring long-term cocoa sustainability for the Region and for Hershey’s global product line.

“Hershey is extending our commitment with new programmes to drive long-term change in cocoa villages where families will benefit from our investments in education, health and economic opportunities,” said J.P. Bilbrey, President and CEO, Hershey Company.

“Our global consumers want Hershey Company to be a leader in responsible business practices and in finding smart ways to benefit cocoa communities. We are excited and humbled by this opportunity to create positive change in West Africa.”

Later this year, US consumers will be able to purchase Hershey’s Bliss® products with 100 per cent cocoa from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms.

Rainforest Alliance Certified farms have met comprehensive sustainability standards that protect the environment and ensure the safety and well-being of workers, their families and communities.

While working with farmers to improve long-standing agricultural practices, Hershey and the Rainforest Alliance will also help them prepare for the future.

Rainforest Alliance will use training programmes to reduce child labour and increase school attendance, these programmes will be coordinated with industry and government initiatives.

“We support Hershey’s comprehensive approach to sustainability, through educating cocoa farmers on best practices and improving conditions for cocoa farming communities in West Africa,” said Tensie Whelan, President of Rainforest Alliance.   “We are thrilled to be working with Hershey to bring their sustainability commitments to life, from cocoa farms in West Africa to store shelves across North America.”

In 2011, Hershey introduced an innovative mobile phone programme in Ghana, known as CocoaLink, to reach thousands of farmers with practical messages about growing cocoa and family health.

Currently, more than two-thirds of cocoa farmers in Ghana are using low-cost mobile phones in their households.    CocoaLink is a first of its kind partnership programme developed with World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) and Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD).

Based on the success of the company’s CocoaLink mobile phone project in Ghana, Hershey said it was planning to expand the network into La Cote d’Ivoire.

Through CocoaLink, cocoa farmers receive text and voice messages that enable them to improve farming practices, understand issues related to pests and adverse weather conditions, improve labour practices and ask questions from cocoa experts in real time.

In the next phase of CocoaLink, Hershey plans to work with the Rainforest Alliance to incorporate important messages about conservation and climate change into the programme.

Through CocoaLink, Hershey and its partners are committed to reaching 100,000 Ghana cocoa farmers by 2014.

La Cote d’Ivoire has approximately 600,000 cocoa farmers and industry data indicates that about half are already using mobile phones.

Source: GNA

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