Hershey, PA — During its first 18 months, The Hershey Co. Learn to Grow sustainability program has reached more than 1,400 Ghanaian farmers, all of which are now producing UTZ-certified cocoa, according to the company.
As a result of this success, the program is being expanded to reach an additional 21,000 in that country.
Terence O’Day, senior vice-president, chief supply chain officer, says: “The program has proven we can substantially improve productivity, family incomes and labor practices while increasing cocoa quality.”
During the first phase of the project, farmers were trained on appropriate growing and labor practices, while some underwent corrective actions to bring their farms up to UTZ standards. These actions included updating record-keeping practices, and the proper use and disposal of only approved crop protection products.
The program also mapped out participating farms using GPS technology. Hershey reports this gave an accurate depiction of the precise size of cocoa farms, enabling growers to optimize fertilizer use and other inputs. In addition, mapping the plots gave a better understanding of the age of farmers’ trees, facilitating planning to gradually replace older and less-productive plants.
Teaching farmers how to develop business plans and manage the farms as businesses is also part of phase two goals. This will include helping farmers diversify their farms and integrate food crops among cocoa trees to generate additional revenue. Hershey notes this is an important step in attracting the next generation of farmers to growing cocoa.
In addition, the second phase will focus on continuing to increase the role of women in cocoa growing. The company reports women comprised 33 percent of the program participants.
Caption: An instructor with Source Trust, The Hershey Co.’s in-country partner, leads a farmer training session.