The National Confectioners Association today announced a partnership with UNICEF that provides a model for greater access to education for children in Ghana’s cocoa communities.
The unique program is based on the belief that education is crucial to the economic development of cocoa farming communities. This partnership will enable children to take part in school while continuing to contribute to the family’s economic success.
NCA has committed funding for the first two years of the program, which is expected to reach about 2,600 children in four cocoa-growing regions in Ghana. The program is part of NCA’s on-going commitment to the cocoa farming families and communities who grow the crop so essential to chocolate products.
“We’re enormously pleased to be able to work with UNICEF, known around the world as the driving force in giving children the best start in life,” said NCA President Larry Graham. “Our industry is committed to supporting the economic and social development of cocoa farming communities. We share UNICEF’s belief that education forms the strongest foundation for a person’s future.”
Research conducted by the Ghana Health Service suggests that while many children in cocoa communities attend school, like children in traditional agricultural communities around the world, some children assist parents on their cocoa farms outside of school hours and may miss school during peak harvest season. Other children attend school while working on cocoa farms as laborers and some children leave school after the primary grades or have never attended school.
The project will initiate the shepherd school concept into Ghana’s cocoa communities. The concept was originally designed by Ghana’s Ministry of Education to provide educational security to shepherd boys from within underdeveloped communities in northern Ghana. The new pilot program will be tailored for children who are involved with cocoa farming. The project will operate afternoon schools for children between the ages of 8-12 years in several districts and communities in cocoa regions of Ghana. Children will attend two to three hours of school per day, leaving time to participate in their families’ economic activity.
Noted Dorothy Rozga, UNICEF Representative in Ghana, “The Shepherd School Concept can contribute to improving access to education when children are involved in cocoa farming. It is UNICEF’s hope that this step towards applying the Shepherd School Concept to Ghanaian cocoa communities will be a catalyst for expanding opportunities for children who otherwise would not be able to attend school and allow them to rejoin the formal school system. UNICEF believes that education is the most effective method to eliminating child labor around the world.”
UNICEF will administer the project, which is being developed as part of the World Cocoa Foundation’s Initiative for African Cocoa Communities (IACC). IACC is a significant expansion of the chocolate and cocoa industry’s commitment to bring about positive, meaningful change in the West African cocoa sector. The initiative identifies and supports new approaches to improve conditions in West African cocoa farming communities, while strengthening and incorporating current, industry-supported programs.
The NCA-UNICEF partnership builds on educational initiatives announced under the IACC umbrella last month. The Mars Incorporated/Winrock International project will provide vocational education in the Ivory Coast, and The Hershey Company/ International Foundation for Education and Self-Help (IFESH) are working to provide teacher training in the cocoa growing regions of Ghana and the Ivory Coast.
“It is our hope that the shepherding program model will help in developing meaningful ways to keep children in school and gain important life skills,” added Graham. “Through education, we can make a difference in the lives of cocoa farmers and their families.”
For nearly 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 158 countries to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for poor countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.
About the IACC and the WCF
The IACC is focused on programs that increase farm family incomes, improve the health, safety and well-being of cocoa farmers and their families, support improved access to quality, relevant education, strengthen biodiversity and wildlife conservation and build stronger, more prosperous cocoa-farming communities.
Founded in 2000, the World Cocoa Foundation’s mission is to promote a sustainable cocoa economy through economic and social development and environmental conservation in cocoa-growing communities.
About the National Confectioners Association of the USA
NCA has 700 members and is the major US association representing the entire confection industry, offering education and leadership in manufacturing, technical research, public relations, retailing practices, government relations and statistical analysis. The National Confectioners Association fosters industry growth by advancing and promoting the interests of the confectionery industry and its consumers.