Four confectionery and snack giants have partnered with the Zurich-based Jacobs Foundation to improve education and support women and families in cocoa-producing communities of Cote D’Ivoire.
Under the foundation’s Transforming Education in Cocoa Communities (TRECC) program and in line with the World Cocoa Foundation’s CocoaAction industry-wide initiative, Mondelez International, Nestlé, Barry Callebaut and Mars, Inc., will jointly invest just over $5 million in projects that provide quality education, assure child labor remediation and empower women as farmers and community members.
Through their projects the companies are expected to reach 72,000 adults and 16,000 children over the next three years. Once the projects are complete, the foundation will match the corporations’ efforts with a $3.8-million investment.
“By setting up these partnerships between the Jacobs Foundation and the cocoa and chocolate industry on the basis of accountability and results orientation, we are laying a strong foundation for jointly improving the wellbeing of cocoa-growing communities and their children in Cote D’Ivoire in the long run,” says Foundation Chairperson Lavinia Jacobs.
Mondelez, with help from World Education International, will set up childcare centers in cocoa-growing communities to provide early childhood education to children ages 3 to 5. Furthermore, in accordance with Mondelez’ own Cocoa Life initiative, the company’s TRECC project will provide women farmers with literacy training and access to savings and credit facilities. Young girls out of school will also have access to vocational training opportunities.
“Early childhood education is not only critical to inspire youth through education. It also helps empower women by freeing up time to earn income, improve cocoa productivity and take leadership positions in farming and community organizations,” says Christine McGrath, Mondelez v.p. of sustainability, Cocoa Life and external affairs. “Having the support of the Jacobs Foundation enables us to amplify Cocoa Life’s impact in our key focus areas such as youth, community and women’s empowerment and therefore, to scale up our holistic approach.”
Meanwhile, Nestlé and the International Cocoa Initiative will join forces to improve literacy and numeracy levels through Nestlé’s TRECC project. They plan to establish informal bridging classes for children ages 9-13 and provide additional support to children attending school but are at risk for dropping out. The project also includes supplementary literacy training for adult women farmers.
“By improving educational support, we hope to improve the prospects for families and further reduce the likelihood of child labor taking place,” says Darrel High, Nestlé’s cocoa manager.
Mars also aims to strengthen women’s role in cocoa growing communities by equipping them with financial and agricultural skills. With help from CARE International, Mars will establish Village Savings and Loan Associations in 24 communities to teach and enable women to save and borrow money.
“When women are financially empowered, they are better equipped to take control of household decision-making,” says Sarah Schaefer, global corporate sustainability director for Mars Chocolate. “Compared to men, women are known to invest more in their families -- from children’s education to family health -- which leads to long-term benefits for entire communities and future generations.”
For its TRECC project, Barry Callebaut, the world’s leading manufacturer of chocolate and cocoa products, will establish youth vocational training in rural cocoa-growing communities. Over a two-year period, participating young people will receive accredited training in a farm service of their choice -- pruning trees, fertilizer application and seedling nursery setup. Young women will also be trained in agroforestry, a sustainable land use method to diversify crops and income sources.
“Providing schooling for young people is included in the purpose of our company,” says Antoine de Saint-Affrique, Barry Callebaut ceo. “Training young people, in particular women, in yield-improving techniques will provide them with a better income, so they can prosper and make sure that the chocolate we all love is around for generations to come.”