this blog is spored BY reflex Eco Group
VENTURES AFRICA – More than 40,000 Ghana cocoa farmers across 1,700 villages have registered for CocoaLink, a digital exchange network that links farmers to modern farming information, which helps increase production.
Launched in mid- 2011, CocoaLink is an innovative public-private partnership between the cocoa sector and the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) sponsored by The Hershey Company, North America’s largest producer of chocolate and a global leader in chocolate and sugar confectionery.Other industry partners like the World Cocoa Foundation, World Education, Inc., and the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI) have since partnered with the company.
The digital technology program provides farmers with real-time information about coping with dry weather, pruning and pesticide applications as well as safety and health information for their families.
It is the first dedicated mobile information program to target the country’s cocoa farmers, 80 percent of whom use mobile phones. Messages are sent in English or Twi (a local language) and farmers can text follow-up questions or call cocoa experts for additional information.
“Surpassing 40,000 registered farmers is a tremendous milestone that shows that CocoaLink has hit a critical mass in Ghana and now plays a significant role in the improvement of the cocoa sector for the entire country,” Senior Vice President, Chief Growth and Marketing Officer, The Hershey Company, Mike Wege says.
With increased mobile penetration in key cocoa producing countries in West Africa, CocoaLink has been able to reinforce key agricultural and social messages delivered to farmers by The Ghana Cocoa Board’s agricultural extension agents. This has provided guidiance to farmers and has helped planting, cultivating and harvesting practices.
“With the support of our private partners, the programme is poised to make the cost of technology exchange with the farmer cheaper, timely and relevant contributing to the long-term sustainability of cocoa production,” Noah Amenyah, a COCOBOD official said, noting that the digital programme has revolutionize the relationship between the extension agents and farmers.
To date, more than 850,000 free SMS messages have been sent to farmers, and because information from CocoaLink is shared by farmers with their families, it is estimated that 200,000 rural Ghanaians have benefitted from such messages, Hershey said in a statement.
According to he President, World Cocoa Foundation, Bill Guyton, “Farmer yields can double or triple when modern farm practices are applied and CocoaLink provides a strong learning platform for farmers.
“We are sharing the insights from CocoaLink with our stakeholders so that we can accelerate the transformation of cocoa farmer extension services across West Africa,” he added.
CocoaLink is aligned with the priorities set by Ghana’s National Program for the Elimination of Child Labor in Cocoa. It will be launched in Cote d’Ivoire by year-end through a similar public-private partnership model.