April 18, 2011 - The World Cocoa Foundation (WCF), Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) and The Hershey Company in the US have joined together to launch a new project that aims to connect cocoa farmers with much-needed information.
The project, CocoaLink, is a public-private partnership between the three organisations, and is an innovative agricultural extension service that uses mobile phones to carry messages to farmers in remote places.
The programme was unveiled in March at an event which included the Honourable E T Mensah, Ghana’s Minister of Employment and Social Welfare, and James Nevels, Chairman of The Hershey Company.
The CocoaLink programme is currently enrolling farmers in a pilot area in the Western Region. A farmer registration system was due to be ready by the end of April, enabling any Ghanaian farmer to sign up by sending the text “COCO” to 1980.
CocoaLink will make use of Ghana’s rapidly developing mobile phone infrastructure and build on the existing successful WCF education and literacy programmes. It is hoped that the programme will eventually reach more than 8,000 cocoa farmers and community members in 15 pilot communities in the cocoa-growing regions of Western Ghana.
The programme will provide cocoa farmers with useful information about improving farming practices, farm safety, child labour, health, disease prevention, post-harvest processing and marketing. Through voice and SMS text messages delivered in their local language or English, cocoa farmers will receive the information free of charge. They will also be able to share information and receive answers to specific questions relating to their cocoa farming livelihoods.
“Harnessing emerging technology that directly benefits farmers and their communities will dramatically accelerate the flow of information to the cocoa regions,” said Hershey Company Vice President Andy McCormick.
“Because any Ghanaian farmer with a mobile phone can sign up for CocoaLink, we expect more than 100,000 cocoa farmers and their families to benefit from this programme during the next three years.”