Under the ‘Transforming Education in Cocoa Communities’ (TRECC) program, Nestlé, Hershey, Mars, Mondelēz International, Barry Callebaut, Blommer, Caboz, Cargill and Cémoi are aiming to overturn low numeracy and literacy rates in Ivorian cocoa communities, while also protecting their own business interests.
The Jacob’s Foundation - which is coordinating TRECC - says education in cocoa communities is not currently a major pillar of chocolate industry sustainability programs, adding most work in education to date has focused on building schools, resulting in limited impact.
Kids in school is not enough: Jacob’s Foundation
Speaking to ConfectioneryNews: Fabio Segura, head of international programs at the Jacobs Foundation, said: "Getting kids into school is not sufficient.
Education in Côte d’Ivoire
- 48% of men and 70% of women above the age of 15 are illiterate
- 68% of Ivorian youths have not finished primary education
- 36% have never attended school at all
“We have done evaluations on the ground to see where most students are at the last cycle of primary education and many are not even a little bit better than those who didn’t attend school."
More than half (52%) of Ivorian students fail to attain ‘sufficient competency’ in reading, while 73% fail to reach the equivalent level in mathematics, according to a soon-to-be-published study by R4D (Results For Development) and Ashoka.
The research - supported by the Jacob’s Foundation - said there were 44 students for every teacher in 2015, while it found unqualified teachers were often operating in schools lacking in electricity, water or restrooms.
The study found rural children performed poorly in numeracy and literacy skills compared to kids in urban areas.
It said remotely located schools often run multi-grade classes and can be ill-prepared to cater to local languages and the needs of low-level students.
‘Brand new money’
TRECC began in 2015 with the support of Mars, Nestlé, Mondelez International and Barry Callebaut.
Last week, the initiative announced nine companies were now on board aiming to improve the quality of education in cocoa communities within their respective sustainability programs.
"This is brand new money….It's the largest initiative for quality of education `within the cocoa and chocolate industry,” said Segura.
"What we are focusing on is what happens in those classrooms. Are people really learning?"
The initiatives from the companies - including parenting skills training and literacy courses for youth - could reach up to 80,000 children in around 150 Ivorian communities in the next four years if scaled up.
Jacobs and Barry Callebaut
Jacobs Holding owns shares in Barry Callebaut. Jacobs Holding gives 100% of its dividends to the Jacobs Foundation to support programs like TRECC. Segura said the Holding and Foundation had different staff and said there was no direct relation between Barry Callebaut and Jacob's Foundation.
Segura said the focus was on soft life skills, which is lacking in the Ivorian school curriculum.
What’s in it for the chocolate business?
He claimed TRECC would prove it is sound business for a chocolate company to invest in quality education in cocoa communities.
“In the long-term that will be reflected in savings in good agricultural practices training, but also better conditions in those communities where cocoa will continue to come from in the future - so a sustainable long-term production.
"It should also mean lower rates of child labor. This is already an objective for companies - and they are struggling to reduce the phenomenon of child labor,” said the programs manager.
Educated communities may lead to improved local infrastructure and a new generation of business-savvy cocoa farmers, he added.
Among the key performance indicators (KPIS) are for 80% of children in literacy and numeracy enhancement programs to have developed the skills corresponding to their expected level.
IPA (Innovations for Poverty Action) and think tank The Brookings Institution will evaluate impact in the first 18 months. Each company initiative will be scaled up if proved successful.
"We have three years to prove value to these companies,” said Segura.
"If all pilots go to scale, we will be reaching 80,000 children with better quality education,” he said.
"These nine companies account for a large portion of the global market for cocoa and chocolate. If they prove a business case for their programs, we'll have a chance to influence the entire industry, so quality of education becomes a major component of sustainability strategies.”
Segura said he hopes more companies will join TRECC and aims for at least one of the company education initiatives to have the backing of the Ivorian government.
How will the money be spent?
Barry Callebaut - to train parents on how to prevent and protect their children from maltreatment, including child labor, with international organization ICS SP. It will also work with local organization École pour tous to provide bridging classes, helping out-of-school children return to class.
Blommer and Hershey - will together work with Helen Keller International and PATH to train health workers and volunteers on how to improve early childhood development through, for example, nutrition.
Cargill - under its Cocoa Promise, will focus on multi-grade-level teaching programs for 150 primary-aged children currently out of school with its implementing partner the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI).
CABOZ - a Swiss-Ivorian company that sources cocoa directly from smallholders will work with the Hanns R.Neumann Foundation to provide youth with agricultural and life skills training.
Cémoi - will work with J-PAL Europe and the Ivorian Government on a ‘teaching at the right level’ program to boost literacy and numeracy at primary schools as part of its Transparence Cacao initiative.
Hershey - will focus on life skills development in partnership with Aflatoun International. The training includes a module on cocoa farming and setting up businesses in cocoa communities.
Mondelez International - will focus on early childhood development in training caregivers on parenting practices. It will also work with International Rescue Committee (IRC), READ Global and IREX to set up community library and resource centers.
Mars - will work with ICS SP and CARE to train caregivers with the aim of enhancing children’s educational performance and reducing child maltreatment.
Nestlé - will work with ICI to provide classes for mothers, children and out-of school children to improve literacy and numeracy levels.