Cargill announces sustainable cocoa committment

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 14th September 2010

Cocoa PodCargill has announced a three-year US$5 million commitment to support sustainable cocoa in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, including a partnership with CARE to sponsor a new program of activities to improve the livelihoods of cocoa farmers and their families in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.

Cocoa is the largest industry and main export in the Côte d’Ivoire, with almost a quarter of its inhabitants somehow involved in the cocoa trade, and is inextricably linked to the country’s fragile political landscape.

Cargill said the partnership with CARE will improve access to education and basic services, promote better agricultural practices and help address the worst forms of child labor in cocoa growing communities. Cargill’s budget also includes an expansion of its Farmer Field Schools program, which currently trains over 10,000 farmers and will expand to support tens of thousands of more farmers over the coming years. The training is designed to help farmers increase yields, improve quality and increase incomes, as well as assisting with gaining independent certifications such as UTZ Certified.

“This commitment underlines our belief that supporting communities and training farmers is key to ensuring cocoa is produced sustainably, to increasing farmers’ incomes and to improving the livelihoods of farmers and their families in West Africa”, said Jos de Loor, managing director of Cargill’s cocoa and chocolate business.

The CARE program will expand on activities already underway in 70 cocoa growing communities to reach a total of 130 communities in the Ashanti, Brong Ahafo and Central regions of Ghana. Additionally, activities will be initiated in 10 communities in the San Pédro and Daloa regions of Côte d’Ivoire. In total, it is estimated the program will help improve educational opportunities for at least 60,000 children, as well as improving the livelihoods of cocoa growing families within these rural communities.

“With Cargill’s generous support, thousands of farmers and their families will receive the tools and training necessary to improve agricultural practices to ensure that cocoa is produced in the most sustainable way”, said Steve Hollingworth, chief operating officer and executive vice president at CARE.

Cargill said it has been supporting the development of cocoa farming in Côte d’Ivoire in since it moved into the region in 1998.

Cargill’s Farmer Field Schools focus on farming techniques and post-harvest activities such as pruning, farm renewal and cocoa fermentation methods, as well as stressing the importance of school attendance for children and HIV awareness.

As a result of training, Cargill said that farmers are benefitting, on average, from a 30% increase in their incomes from higher yields, as well as an improvement in the quality of their crop for which they also receive a quality-related bonus payment from Cargill.

The training enables farmer cooperatives to achieve UTZ Certification, which is supporting small-scale farmers to improve agricultural, environmental and social practices in cocoa production. By the end of this year more than 10,000 tonnes of independently certified UTZ cocoa beans will be processed by Cargill into high-quality cocoa and chocolate products for use by food manufacturers in their branded products.

“Our approach to cocoa sustainability recognizes the importance of supporting communities today, as well as assisting their future growth and development”, continued Jos de Loor. “By focusing our support in local communities we are helping improve the livelihoods of farming families and increasing opportunities for children to receive an education.”

In addition to these activities, Cargill also provides financial support for other programs in the cocoa sector. This includes supporting the International Cocoa Initiative’s (ICI) efforts to prevent and eliminate forced and abusive child labor, as well as joining other companies in the sector to partner with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support The Cocoa Livelihoods Program, which is a five-year effort to improve the livelihoods of 200,000 cocoa farmers in West Africa. It also continues to support programs in other major cocoa growing regions around the world.