Working with business to support cocoa farmers

Working with business to support cocoa farmers

Cocoa farmer in Ghana

VSO values joint programmes with corporate partners that deliver development impact whilst contributing towards business objectives. Here, VSO UK Corporate Partnerships Manager, Hannah Ward explains our work with Mondelēz International and the impact we are seeing in over 100 cocoa farming communities in the Eastern region of Ghana.

VSO have been running this programme for almost four years now, a partnership that aims to secure the cocoa supply chain by supporting farmers and their communities, and we’re starting to hear about some really exciting developments.

What started as the Cadbury Cocoa Partnership in 2008 is now ‘Cocoa Life’ – re-launched by Cadbury’s new owners Mondelēz International alongside a global commitment of US $400million over the next ten years. VSO implements the programme in Ghana alongside Care and World Vision.

The set up of the programme is not ‘typical’ VSO, however, it plays to all of our strengths as an organisation, and appears to be a model that is seeing real results. Cocoa Life is based on three key principles of partnership, farmer and community ownership, and securing the cocoa supply-chain. VSO’s role, put simply, is to facilitate relationships between Mondelēz International, the 106 cocoa farming communities in which we work, and other partners such as the Ghanaian Ministry of Food and Agriculture.

We do this in quite a simple way; we (‘we’ being national volunteers, international volunteers, programme staff and local partners supported by VSO) speak to cocoa communities about the challenges they face, and support them to develop community-owned action plans to address these issues.
As you could probably guess, a key concern for many of the communities is increasing the income that can be generated from cocoa production.

So what are the results?

  • Following training in improved farming techniques and support with inputs such as fertiliser and new crop varieties many of the farmers we work with have increased their cocoa yields, by up to 400% over two years. The quality of their cocoa has also improved meaning farmers are able to demand a higher price for their beans, and many are working towards gaining fair trade certification.
  • With business schools for farmers and small business training, plus support in setting up bank accounts, farmers are now saving their increased income and reinvesting in their farms for the first time. Farmers and community members are also branching out into other income generating activities that will provide a steady source of income for when it is not cocoa season.
  • Farmers have been able to use their new additional income to send their children to secondary school for the first time, pay for healthcare needs and make improvements to their housing.

The cocoa partnership hasn’t only boosted the income of cocoa farming communities; it’s also supported communities to lobby their local governments to demand access to basic services, such as school buildings and getting electricity supplies connected. The idea is that supporting thriving cocoa communities leads to a more sustainable cocoa supply chain – so everyone benefits.

If you’d like to know more please take look at this short film, which explains the ‘Cocoa Life’ programme and the impact it is having.

Find out more about our Corporate Partnerships

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