Yesterday, The Hershey Co. launched 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 Cargill, Hershey’s Learn to Grow Ivory Coast effort will encompass seven farmer cooperatives and will include investments in educational infrastructure and teacher housing.

Through Hershey Learn to Grow Ivory Coast, 10,000 cocoa farmers will be trained in agricultural and social practices that are independently audited and certified against the UTZ Certified standard. By doing so, farmers benefit by receiving higher premium payments for their cocoa. Farmers will also realize long-term improvements to their cocoa harvests by improving aging farms through good agricultural practices.

“Hershey and Cargill combine shared values about community responsibility with an urgent focus on bringing better farming practices and market opportunities to Ivory Coast cocoa farmers,” says Terry O’Day, Hershey’s chief supply chain officer and senior v.p. “The essence of Learn to Grow is to make cocoa farming more profitable for individual farmers and build a long-term supply of high-quality cocoa for global consumers, while working together to expand community services, clinics and schools in the cocoa communities.

 “Learn to Grow Ivory Coast is a good example of the collaborative approach to cocoa sustainability that Hershey and Cargill have embraced through CocoaAction, our industry’s strategy for improving cocoa farms and communities in West Africa,” he adds. “Since women are critical to cocoa farming and cocoa communities, CocoaAction and Hershey are actively working toward gender equality and economic empowerment for women in these communities.”

Hershey is expanding its Learn to Grow farmer training model from established programs implemented in Ghana and Nigeria.

The Ivory Coast project is being launched with Cargill, a Hershey cocoa supplier that sources and process cocoa there, and with an established network of Ivory Coast farm associations.

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.

Cargill has been active in cocoa sustainability for more than a decade and has a unique sourcing network in Ivory Coast of cooperatives that participate in the Cargill Cocoa Promise, a global initiative supporting sustainable cocoa. This new effort between Cargill and Hershey is one example of how the two organizations are taking actions to improve transparency and sustainability in the cocoa supply chain to support the Cargill Cocoa Promise.

For the Learn to Grow program in Ivory Coast, 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.
  • Educational support, including teacher housing, school improvements and raising awareness of child labor issues and children’s rights in farming communities.

"Amazing things can happen when two companies with shared values come together," says Bryan Wurscher, president of Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate North America. "The most exciting part of our work with Hershey is to see the immense impact it will have on smallholder farmers, cocoa communities and the overall cocoa supply chain.”

Move to help Hershey attain certified cocoa goal

A major benefit of the Learn to Grow Ivory Coast program will be to accelerate Hershey’s purchase of sustainably sourced cocoa. Hershey is committed to buying 100 percent certified cocoa for all of its products worldwide by 2020. Certified cocoa is verified through independent auditors to assure that it is grown in line with the highest internationally recognized standards for labor, environmental and better farming practices. Hershey’s percentage of certified cocoa surpassed 18 percent through 2013 and will increase to between 40 and 50 percent by 2016.

Hershey’s 21st Century Cocoa Sustainability Strategy includes West Africa farmer training, community programming and technology initiatives that will reach more than 50,000 cocoa farmers by 2017. In the Ivory Coast, a Hershey-supported primary school in Abokro has completed its first year of operation by providing 155 students with new classrooms, water supplies, an infirmary and a canteen for a daily meal.