The global cocoa and chocolate ingredient supplier said it intends to double the number of farmer training schools it operates in the Ivory Coast to 300 schools, covering over 35 farmer cooperatives, by mid to end 2010.
The education programme, explained Cargill, focuses on farming techniques and post-harvest activities such as pruning, plantation renewal and cocoa fermentation methods.
Cargill maintains that its commitment to improve farming techniques in cocoa growing communities in West Africa is resulting in a 30 per increase to farmers’ incomes, with their earnings being additionally topped up by a quality related bonus payment from the ingredients giant.
The company said that it has been focused on West Africa as its initial target for farmer training, as 40 per cent of the world’s cocoa comes from Ivory Coast and 20 per cent from Ghana – and the quality and productivity of cocoa production there has been seriously undermined by disease, bad farm maintenance and poor agricultural and economic infrastructure.
Harold Poelma, managing director of Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate, explained that another goal of the education programme is to raise awareness of environmental, health and social issues such as the importance of ensuring children’s education and HIV awareness: “In short, the training is directly benefiting farmers today and supports them in becoming successful entrepreneurs for the longer term.”
The 10-month training programme that the farmers undergo enables co-operatives to improve their incomes and also achieve UTZ Certification.
The UTZ Certified cocoa programme was founded by Cargill, along with Dutch development organisation Solidaridad and a number of other big players in the cocoa sector, including Mars, Nestle, Heinz Benelux, Cargill, Ecom and Dutch retailer Ahold.
The scheme has introduced independent certification to improve agricultural, environmental and social practices in cocoa production.
Cargill said that its training initiative will enable co-operatives to become UTZ Certified, which in turn will result in more than 10,000 tonnes of cocoa beans being available for use in sustainably certified chocolate and cocoa products by the end of this year.
Cargill is currently the only company shipping UTZ certified cocoa, as two of the cooperatives it has been working with in the Ivory Coast were the first to achieved certification in the autumn of last year.