The Swedish Chocolate, Confectionery and Biscuit Manufacturers’ Association (Chokofa) and WCF project aims to improve occupational safety and health on West African cocoa farms, which could help increase yields as a result.
The project, backed by an 18 month grant, will focus on farmer training, education and development of innovative technologies.
Hakan Bjorklund, director general of Chokofa, told ConfectioneryNews.com: “The primary purpose is to see that cocoa production and harvesting is done in a way which will not be harmful for the people doing the work.
However, he added that further down the line there were also benefits for confectionery manufacturers.
Bjorklund said: “If you are dependent on one single product which for many companies is chocolate, you have to think about tomorrow and the day after tomorrow.
“If it is not good sustainable production then you will run out of the raw material. You risk not having enough.
“We must see that there is enough profitability for the farmers so they will invest in cocoa production.”
There could also be a boost to a company’s social responsibility credentials as many consumers want products produced more ethically.
Chokofa members, which include Kraft Foods, Lindt & Spüngli, Mars, Ferrero, Nestlé, Haribo, and Cadbury, make up more than 90 per cent of sales of chocolate and confectionery in the Swedish market.
Bjorklund said: “Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana are the main sources of cocoa for Swedish manufacturers. The wellbeing of farmers of these countries is very important to us and our members.
“Focusing our efforts on the two largest cocoa producing countries allows us to achieve maximum impact and develop new approaches and technologies that will ultimately benefit the entire West Africa cocoa-producing region.”
The project will work with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture/Sustainable Tree Crops Program to develop training modules and relevant materials.
These will be piloted in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana with an initial group of 930 farmers.
The materials will be available for use by other programs and institutions in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana and in other countries.
Improving the occupational safety of the farmers is said to be “critical” for increasing cocoa productivity.
Bjorklund said research has shown that such projects can increase yields between 20-55 per cent and enable to farmers to earn more, which is an incentive for them to volunteer for the project.
He highlighted how training can address the overuse of pesticides - a problem associated with a low level of education.
By showing the farmers the most appropriate way to use pesticides, and that double the amount does not give double the protection, could help them reduce costs.
World Cocoa Foundation
WCF President Bill Guyton, said in a statement: “This project is an excellent opportunity for farmers to learn practical safety measures and valuable health information that will make a real difference for their families.
“At the same time, the project is providing grants to local research institutes and universities to develop new technologies that will improve farm safety and family wellbeing in the long term.”