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Hershey announces plans to reinforce cocoa sustainability in West Africa

FBR Staff Writer Published 31 January 2012

The Hershey Company, the US-based chocolate manufacturer, plans to invest $10m over the next five years in West Africa, in programmes to lower child labor and improve farming communities, as a part of its plan to reinforce cocoa sustainability efforts.

The company plans to work with experts in agriculture, community development and government, and by 2017, Hershey's public and private partnerships are expected to directly benefit 750,000 African cocoa farmers and over two million people in cocoa communities across the region.

The Hershey Company president and CEO JP Bilbrey said the company is extending its commitment with new programmes to drive long-term change in cocoa villages where families will benefit from the company's investments in education, health and economic opportunities.

"Our global consumers want The Hershey Company to be a leader in responsible business practices and in finding smart ways to benefit cocoa communities," Bilbrey added.

Hershey plans to partner with Rainforest Alliance, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), to train cocoa farmers to help them address global climate change and adapt to its impacts.

Later this year, the company will launch Hershey's Bliss products with 100% cocoa from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms - the farms which have met comprehensive sustainability standards that protect the environment and ensure the well-being of workers, their families and communities.

Hershey said that it is working with the Rainforest Alliance to source cocoa from certified farms in Latin America and Africa for Hershey's premium brand Dagoba.

The company plans to increase the presence of CocoaLink mobile phone project to Ivory Coast, which has approximately 600,000 cocoa farmers, with about half are already using mobile phones.

The CocoaLink project, which was launched in 2011 in Ghana, involves sending text and voice messages to cocoa farmers to help them improve farming practices, understand problems related to pests and adverse weather conditions, improve labor practices and ask questions of cocoa experts in real time.

Under the next phase of CocoaLink, Hershey plans to work with the Rainforest Alliance to include important messages about conservation and climate change into the programme, and also reach 100,000 Ghana cocoa farmers by 2014.

In addition, Hershey and Source Trust, a non-profit organisation, have launched a new initiative 'Hershey Learn to Grow', which will establish 25 community-based farmer organisations.

Through the organisations, Hershey plans to improve the living standards of 1,250 cocoa farm families through good agricultural, environmental, social and business practices training; improve access to improved planting material; and finance for farm inputs with the goal to double productivity yield and farm income over four years.

Hershey and Source Trust will also assist the Government of Ghana to meet the goals of Ghana's 2009-2015 National Plan of Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor (WFCL) and bring high-tech learning to rural farm villages.