The successful launch and completion of its HERSHEY LEARN TO GROW program in Ghana, which was implemented 18 months ago to help increase the incomes and improve living standards of more than 1,400 cocoa farm families there, has prompted The Hershey Co. to expand the initiative. As a result, by launching Phase II of the program, the company looks to increase the number of participating farmers from its current 1,465 to more than 21,000 across Ghana.


Scenes from a farmer training session hosted by a Source Trust instructor in the Assin Fosu region of Ghana. Source Trust is Hershey's program partner in Ghana. Photos courtesy of The Hershey Co.

One of the highlights from the program’s first results report is that all 1,465 participating farmers in Ghana’s Assin Fosu region passed their first-year UTZ audit and are now growing UTZ certified cocoa, adding additional third-party certified cocoa volume to the region’s cocoa supply. Hershey previously committed to using 100 percent certified cocoa in its products worldwide by 2020. In 2013, 18 percent of the cocoa Hershey purchased globally was certified, nearly double its original goal of 10 percent for the year. The company plans to increase that total to between 40 and 50 percent by 2016 on its path to 100 percent by 2020.

“The HERSHEY LEARN TO GROW program has exceeded our expectations and shown how a package of training programs, including business knowledge and good agricultural practices, can meaningfully change the lives of cocoa farmers, their families and their communities,” says Terence O’Day, Hershey’s senior vice president, chief supply chain officer. “The program has proven we can substantially improve productivity, family incomes and labor practices while increasing cocoa quality. We are pleased to be working with our partner in Ghana – Source Trust – to expand Learn to Grow to 20,000 more farmers who will all benefit from the training that has proven so successful in Phase I.”

Learn to Grow farmers are also enrolling in the CocoaLink mobile phone learning program sponsored by Hershey. CocoaLink provides farmers with weekly text and voice messages on farm modernization as well as information about health, safety and labor. CocoaLink has enrolled more than 45,000 Ghana cocoa farmers since mid-2011.


Certification helps increase farmer incomes
During the first year of the HERSHEY LEARN TO GROW program, farmers were educated on appropriate farming and labor practices and some underwent corrective actions that brought their farms up to UTZ standards, including adequate record-keeping and proper use and disposal of only approved crop protection products. UTZ is a third-party certifier that focuses on helping farmers to learn better farming methods, improve working conditions, generate more income and create better opportunities for their families, and take better care of their children and the environment.

The program also mapped the cocoa farms of participating farmers using GPS technology, which allowed them for the first time to understand the precise size of their farms and enabled them to use the optimal amounts of fertilizers and other farm inputs. GPS mapping also revealed the age of farmers’ trees and allowed them to develop a plan to gradually replace older, low-productive trees with newer ones that can begin producing higher cocoa yields in three years.

“The cocoa program has changed my ways of growing cocoa,” says Yaw Amponsah, a 51-year-old farmer from the Assin Jakai region who is married and has four children. “I’ve learned a lot from this program. I didn’t know how to plant this modern type of cocoa. I was using the old ways. Now I have learned how to increase my production. I’ve learned the exact acreage of my farms and know how much fertilizer I have to buy. This has saved me a lot of money.”


Gender balance and geotraceabiliy
Phase II will also seek to maintain a high participation rate for women farmers with a goal of 33 percent women registered farmers, a level of gender balance that was achieved in Phase I and confirmed in the program’s yearend 2013 progress report.

In addition to expanding the program across all of Ghana’s cocoa-growing regions and adding 20,000 new farmers, HERSHEY LEARN TO GROW Phase II will include Geotraceability. This program involves tagging and tracking individual bags through the entire supply chain to understand where products came from and to access records about how they are produced.

HERSHEY LEARN TO GROW Phase II is a partnership program with the World Cocoa Foundation and is part of the long-term Cocoa Livelihoods Program in West Africa cocoa growing regions supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Farming as a business
Another goal of Phase II is to teach farmers how to develop a business plan for their farms and how to manage their farms as a business, rather than simply a cash crop. The program includes helping farmers diversify their farm and integrate a food crop amongst the cocoa trees to bring biodiversity to the farm and generate an additional source of income. These modern farm management techniques are designed to appeal to younger farmers and help attract the next generation of farmers from the young adults living in the local villages. HERSHEY LEARN TO GROW also supports farmer and family education through a computer lab in Assin Fosu that supplements school curriculum and shows farmers modern growing methods.

One of the biggest challenges for cocoa farms across West Africa is the replacement of aging cocoa trees that are near the end of their productivity. Farmers are being taught to begin planting new trees and removing aging trees. Even though this can reduce yields in the short term, it increases yields in the long term. HERSHEY LEARN TO GROW has also created a cocoa seedling nursery to provide free trees for the program’s farmers and to help with the ongoing rejuvenation of farms in the region.

The HERSHEY LEARN TO GROW farmer and family development center first launched in Assin Fosu, Ghana’s central cocoa region, in 2012. The program was established to improve farmer livelihoods through good agricultural, environmental, social and business practices training; access to improved planting material; and finance for farm inputs with the goal to double productivity yield and farm income over four years.

The program expanded into Nigeria in mid-2013 through a public and private partnership with IDH (The Sustainable Trade Initiative) and Source Trust. In Nigeria, the program is working to provide 20,000 cocoa farmers with advanced training to improve the quality of their cocoa and increasing farmer income by at least 30 percent. Hershey Learn to Grow Nigeria will also provide geotraceability and business and finance training to farmers so they are able to access credit to improve their farms.