The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation together with chocolate companies have funded a $40-million program to be managed by the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) to benefit cocoa farmers in Cote D’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon and Liberia. The five-year West Africa Cocoa Livelihoods Program plans to enhance farmer knowledge and competitiveness, improve productivity and quality, promote crop diversification and improve supply chain efficiency, which should help increase farmers’ incomes and improve the cocoa community’s well being.

Of the $40 million, $23 million came from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, while the other $17 million came from major branded manufacturers The Hershey Co., Kraft Foods and Mars, Inc.; cocoa processors Archer Daniels Midland Co., Barry Callebaut, Blommer Chocolate Co. and Cargill; and supply chain managers and allied industries Armajaro, EcomAgrocacao, Olam International Ltd. and Starbucks Coffee Co.

In the coming months, a location for the West Africa Cocoa Livelihoods Program will be chosen. By late 2009 and early 2010, on-the-ground program activities will begin. In addition, the program will be implemented through the following groups: ACDI/VOCA, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) GmbH, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)/Sustainable Tree Crops Program, SOCODEVI and TechnoServe.