Cargill/Hershey Collaboration to Benefit Côte d’Ivoire Cocoa Farmers

By Chuck Benda September 09, 2014

Some 10,000 Côte d’Ivoire cocoa farmers from seven cooperatives—and the communities in which they live—will reap the benefits of a new joint initiative by Cargill and The Hershey Company. Titled “Learn to Grow Ivory Coast,” the collaborative effort will train local farmers in sustainable cocoa farming practices—including pruning, safe spraying, and the effective use of fertilizers—and ethical labor and social practices.

The three year initiative with Hershey supports activities already underway as part of the Cargill Cocoa Promise – the ambition of which is to accelerate progress toward a transparent global cocoa supply chain, enable farmers to achieve better incomes and living standards and deliver a sustainable supply of cocoa and chocolate products.

The partnership will imply that Hershey will buy sustainable cocoa, UTZ-certified from Cargill. Hershey will pay Cargill a premium for the cocoa as part of its commitment to boost the worldwide production of sustainable, transparently sourced cocoa. Two thirds of the premium  paid to the farmers and their cooperatives will be used to support community education, as well as projects to enhance the cooperatives’ infrastructure. The one-third balance will be invested in farmer training programs and capacity building.

“Amazing things can happen when two companies with shared values come together,” said Bryan Wurscher, Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate North America president. “The most exciting part of our work with Hershey is to see the immense impact it will have on smallholder farmers, cocoa communities, and the overall cocoa supply chain.”

For example, with the Yiri+ project in partnership with Syngenta, we have shown through demonstration plots that the proper use of crop protection can bring a yield improvement of 40%—a gain that would generate more than $1,100 of additional annual income for a typical smallholder farmer. If Learn to Grow Ivory Coast can help boost farmers’ production even half that much, the impact on Côte d’Ivoire (the largest cocoa-producing country in the world) could be game-changing.

“The essence of Learn to Grow is to make cocoa farming more profitable for individual famers and build a long-term supply of high quality cocoa for global consumers, while working together to expand community services, clinics and schools in the cocoa communities,” said Terry O’Day, Hershey chief supply chain officer and senior vice president.

The Cargill Cocoa Promise

For more than a decade, Cargill has supported the development of a cocoa supply chain that is transparent, enables farmers to achieve better incomes and living standards, and delivers a sustainable supply of cocoa and chocolate products. The Cargill Cocoa Promise, introduced in 2012, is a formal statement of the company’s commitment to continue to improve the livelihoods of cocoa farmers, their families and their communities through farmer training, community support and farm development.

In the short time since the Cocoa Promise was introduced, Cargill has provided training to more than 115,000 cocoa farmers, established nearly 2,550 farmer field schools in six countries teaching good agricultural practices, and distributed more than 25 million cocoa tree seedlings—among other improvements. Also, $25 million of premiums have been paid to farmer cooperatives for certified sustainable cocoa to date. Hershey and Cargill previously also collaborated on CocoaLink, a program using mobile phones to provide farming, labor safety, and marketing training to Ghanaian cocoa farmers. This latest collaboration leverages many of the farmer training programs and other initiatives Cargill has completed in Côte d’Ivoire and advances the Cargill Cocoa Promise.