The Ghana Cocoa Board, The Hershey Company, and the World Cocoa Foundation have announced a first-of-its kind program to use mobile technology to deliver practical information on agricultural and social programs to rural cocoa farmers and enable the farmers to ask questions and provide feedback...
The Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), The Hershey Company, and the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) have announced a first-of-its kind program to use mobile technology to deliver practical information on agricultural and social programs to rural cocoa farmers and enable the farmers to ask questions and provide feedback.
The program, called “CocoaLink – Connecting Cocoa Communities,” will make use of Ghana’s rapidly developing mobile phone infrastructure. Building on existing successful WCF education and literacy programs, it aims to reach more than 8,000 Ghanaian cocoa farmers and community members in 15 pilot communities across the major cocoa-growing regions of Western Ghana.
The innovative program will use mobile technology to connect cocoa farmers with useful information about improving farming practices, farm safety, child labour, health, crop disease prevention, post-harvest production and crop marketing. Through voice and SMS text messages delivered in their local language or English, cocoa farmers will receive the information at no charge. They also will be able to share information and receive answers to specific questions relating to their livelihoods.
“This program offers an innovative, yet simple, way to get critical information to cocoa farmers that can have a tremendously positive impact on their livelihoods and on communities, including their children,” said Anthony Fofie, chief executive officer of COCOBOD. “We are delighted to be part of a program that we believe will make a substantial difference in the Ghana’s cocoa sector.”
“Harnessing emerging technology that directly benefits farmers and their communities will dramatically accelerate the flow of information to the cocoa regions,” said Hershey Company Vice President Andy McCormick. “Because any Ghanaian farmer with a mobile phone can sign up for CocoaLink, we expect more than 100,000 cocoa farmers and their families to benefit from this program during the next three years.”
“CocoaLink is another great example of the public-private partnerships that form the basis of WCF’s programs to benefit cocoa farmers, their families and their communities,” said Bill Guyton, President of the World Cocoa Foundation.
Ghana, which has more than 700,000 cocoa farmers, now has mobile phone coverage across approximately 85 percent of its geography, including remote rural areas. Recent studies estimate that more than 65 percent of Ghana’s rural residents have access to mobile phones. CocoaLink information will be available to any cocoa farmer with access to a mobile phone. Farmers can subscribe to the CocoaLink SMS text messages by entering a one-time “short code” number into their phone.
COCOBOD is providing program management and oversight on the development of the agricultural information and will provide ongoing field support, as well as ensuring relevance of information throughout the cocoa growing season. The Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) will provide agricultural and social content, and Dream Oval, a communications technology firm based in Accra, is providing technological support.