Hershey Learn to Grow

The Hershey Learn to Grow program aims to reach more than 8,700 cocoa farmers who belong to 27 cooperatives spread across six regions of Cote d'Ivoire, the world's largest cocoa-producing country. Photo provided by Hershey. 

The Hershey Co. is expanding its cocoa sustainability program Learn to Grow through new public and private partnerships —  and its goal is to create more sustainable cocoa by 2020.

Hershey has pledged to purchase 100 percent certified cocoa by 2020, and the company is working with Fair Trade USA to certify many of the farms participating in this Learn to Grow program.

However, Hershey isn’t the only chocolate maker that’s made a 2020 pledge. Mars, Nestlé, Mondelez and Ferrero also have made similar commitments, and industry experts have expressed doubts that there will be enough cocoa available for everyone to use 100 percent sustainable cocoa by then.

And that’s where programs like this come into play.

This new partnership agreement, which includes Hershey suppliers and a European sustainability agency, aims to reach more than 8,700 cocoa farmers who belong to 27 cooperatives spread across six regions of Cote d’Ivoire — the world’s largest cocoa-producing country.

Specifically, Hershey will partner with Blommer Chocolate and Olam International through their joint “GrowCocoa” initiative and IDH, The Sustainable Trade Initiative.

The program has three key objectives:

  • Improving planting methods to increase productivity on each participating farm
  • Providing fertilizer incentives and other important inputs to farmers who demonstrate use of good agricultural practices
  • Rehabilitating cocoa farms that are more than 25 years old with new, faster-growing and higher-yielding cocoa trees

The new initiative builds on Hershey’s existing cocoa sustainability programs in Cote d’Ivoire.

In 2013, Hershey funded the construction of a primary school in the Abroko cocoa region. With today’s announcement, the Hershey Learn to Grow program will enroll approximately 19,000 Ivorian cocoa farmers by 2017.

“This significant expansion of the Hershey Learn to Grow Cote d’Ivoire farmer training and community development program is another example of how public and industry partners, who have deep expertise and a commitment to cocoa sustainability, can positively impact the lives of farmers and their families,” explains Terry O’Day,  senior v.p., chief supply chain officer.

Farmer training key to improving livelihoods

The farmer training includes teaching improved planting techniques, pruning, frequent harvesting, timely weeding, shade tree management and soil fertility management.

Also, access to fertilizer is one of the critical challenges for cocoa farmers in West Africa, because regular applications of fertilizer are key to achieving high yields.

“The ambition is to give farmers with well-maintained farms access to much needed fertilizer, which has the potential to significantly increase their cocoa production on existing land,” explains Joost Oorthuizen, executive director of IDH, The Sustainable Trade Initiative.

In addition to training farmers on the latest farming techniques, the program will also use technology to improve farming practices.

Farms will be geo-mapped using GPS technology, which allows farmers to know, often for the first time, exactly how large their farm is. This enables more appropriate and precise application of key farming inputs, such as fertilizers.

The Learn to Grow partners will also fund women empowerment and cocoa community improvement programs. The programs will include a focus on educating children, consistent with Hershey’s long-time commitment to helping children in need.

“We are very excited to be working with Hershey and IDH on Learn to Grow in Cote d’Ivoire,” says Tracey Duffey, director of GrowCocoa. “This program will build on the work that Blommer and Olam have been undertaking together in Cote d’Ivoire since 2006.”

This extension of the Learn to Grow Cote d’Ivoire project is one of a series of steps Hershey is taking to expand its farmer training model through established programs in Ghana and Nigeria as part of its Hershey’s 21st Century Cocoa Sustainability Strategy — the company’s roadmap for helping cocoa farmers and their communities.

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.

Supporting CocoaAction

All of these actions are part of Hershey’s commitment to CocoaAction, the industry’s collaborative strategy for improving cocoa farms and communities in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire.

Hershey and CocoaAction are also actively working to address gender equality and increase economic empowerment for women in the cocoa communities.

About GrowCocoa

GrowCocoa, which is an initiative of the Blommer Chocolate Co. and Olam International, focuses on sustainably and responsibly securing the future of the global cocoa supply chain through shared value, linking communities to consumers and improving the livelihoods of cocoa farmers and their families.

GrowCocoa reflects the dedication of Blommer and Olam to ensure a healthy and equitable cocoa value chain for generations to come.

About IDH, The Sustainable Trade Initiative

IDH, The Sustainable Trade Initiative accelerates and upgrades sustainable trade by building impact-oriented coalitions of leading companies, civil society organizations, governments and other stakeholders.

By convening public and private interests, strengths, and knowledge, the 18 IDH programs sustainably transform commodity markets to create large scale improvements in the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of small scale farmers, reduce negative environmental impact, and support local value creation in developing countries -- making sustainable production and consumption the norm.