The Hershey Company is expanding its mobile phone program CocoaLink to Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), which is the world’s largest producer of cocoa. CocoaLink helps farmers grow greater quantities and higher quality of cocoa through farm training provided by low-cost SMS messages and expert exchanges via mobile phones.
Hershey joined with the Conseil Café-Cacao (CCC) of Ivory Coast and nine other companies in creating CocoaLink Cote d’Ivoire, which is expected to enroll 100,000 cocoa farmers by 2016.
Hershey first launched CocoaLink in Ghana in 2011 with the Ghana Cocoa Board and the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF). Through CocoaLink, more than 350,000 SMS messages have been provided at no cost to 18,000 cocoa farmers in more than 500 communities. More than 35 percent of CocoaLink users are women.
“Modernising cocoa farms means creating better lives for growers, their families and communities,” said Terry O’Day, Hershey’s Senior Vice President, Chief Supply Chain Officer. “CocoaLink messages are designed based on farmer surveys and are kept relevant through continual feedback with this interactive platform.”
“Mobile phones are a proven tool in reducing rural poverty and isolation while increasing community education. Through CocoaLink and other technology-based programs, Hershey and our partners will be adding digital literacy training in the cocoa communities of Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire where the need is greatest. Because women have such a personal impact on the well-being of their families and communities, our focus and digital outreach will be customised to their particular interests and circumstances.”
CocoaLink supports safe farming practices based on national child labour laws as well as health and education information to help cocoa communities develop. Since more than 70 percent of the 1.5 million cocoa farmers in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire are using mobile phones, Hershey plans to leverage CocoaLink to provide both farming and community information through initiatives that include:
- Adding digital literacy training to the WCF ECHOES youth education program in West Africa.
- Providing training videos that women farmers can access through free computer centres provided in the company’s Learn to Grow program in Ghana.
- Expanding the company’s unique distance learning program that creates a virtual classroom in Assin Fosu Ghana for students to learn together with their counterparts at the Milton Hershey School in Pennsylvania.
- Applying insights from the company’s cocoa mapping GPS project so that farmers and families understand the size and geography of their cocoa farms so they can manage the farms more productively and profitably.