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VSO and Mondelez: Building a better life for cocoa farmers


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Since 2012 VSO has been a partner of Mondelēz International, one of the world’s largest confectionery companies, on the Cocoa Life programme. Together, we are improving the lives of 205 cocoa growing communities in Ghana.

Woman cocoa farmer with cocoa pods in Ghana VSO/Purushottam Diwakar

Widow Abiba can afford to pay her daughter's school fees now that she is a member of a village saving and loans association through Cocoa Life in Ayensuano, Ghana.

More than 800,000 farmers in Ghana rely on cocoa for the majority of their income, which is estimated at just $0.42 per day. Almost all farm on a very small scale – 85% of the world’s cocoa is produced in this way.

We are improving the lives of thousands of farmers and their families by:

  • Helping cocoa farmers access services that help increase their yield
  • Training women on farming, business management and leadership skills
  • Providing access to finance, creating a savings culture and increasing financial literacy through Village Savings and Loan Associations 
  • Empowering communities to lead their own development by implementing action plans
  • Developing young people’s skills to improve employment chances
  • Supporting people to generate income through micro enterprises
  • Training farmers on good agricultural practices  

Get in touch

Joy Ambassadors: Corporate volunteering skills exchange

As part of our partnership, senior leaders from Mondelēz International volunteer on short term placements. They learn about the origin of cocoa and the importance of a sustainable supply chain.  

Mondelēz employees deliver workshops to Cocoa Life communities on the skills needed to run successful enterprises. They work with Ghanaian counterparts in an immersive leadership development opportunity and gain first-hand experience of their company’s flagship sustainability programme through supporting the objectives of Cocoa Life.

Changing lives

Farming families now have better incomes, and more control over their financial futures. Communities have seen direct benefits from their investments in projects like schools and roads.

Key achievements in 2015/16:

  • 1,628 farmers trained in food crop and animal husbandry agricultural practices (606 women)
  • 2,352 people participating in community Savings and Loans Associations (83% women)
  • 28 community enterprise groups trained across  districts 
  • 54 community action plans completed
  • 52 community members trained in leadership skills; group dynamics and gender training

Women leading their families out of poverty

Members of a microfinance group in Ghana | VSO VSO/Purushottam Diwakar

Members of the Village Savings and Loans Association in Odjarde, Ghana. They are one of many groups VSO has supported with training and improved financial management.

Women play a vital role in cocoa farming. They labour during the harvest. Between seasons their small businesses provide what may be the family's only source of income.

Through Cocoa Life, female community members are trained by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture and VSO. They go on to mentor other women to develop their business, farming and leadership skills.

This is helping to cocoa farming families and so benefits the community as a whole.

Juliana Aboaagyewa, cocoa farmer in Ghana | VSO ©VSO/Tim Maynard

Juliana Aboaagyewa has increased her income through the Cocoa Life programme. She now considers herself a businesswoman

Juliana Aboaagweya received agricultural training as well as advice on business development, record keeping and saving and investment. She went on to form a group of 30 female entrepreneurs to pass on what she's learned.  They support each other to grow their businesses, and have a collective savings scheme, which members can draw on in crisis times.

“I wasn't doing record keeping before so I never knew how much time I was spending on work or how much money I was spending. Now I can see from my income records what profit I have made. It helps me see where things could be improved or where I should do more of the same."

Juliana Aboaagweya, Cocoa Life woman extension volunteer 

Life was hard for Juliana. A single mother, she is also financially responsible for her sister's children and her elderly parents. 

Since receiving training she has been able to re-roof her house and is also building a new house for her parents. She has purchased a generator and people in the community pay her to charge their mobile phones or to watch TV. 

"VSO helps us meet our business need of ensuring a sustainable cocoa supply. They are a valued partner and through the support of VSO’s unique approach thousands of cocoa farmers and their families will learn the skills and expertise needed to improve their livelihoods, opportunities and future.”

Cathy Pieters,  director Cocoa Life programme, Mondelēz International

Working in partnership

Cocoa Life demonstrates what can be achieved through working in partnership with the private sector, local and international suppliers, non-governental organisations and local and national government.

Through Cocoa Life, Mondelēz International is creating empowered and thriving cocoa farming families and ensuring a more sustainable supply of cocoa.

Ghana's Ministry of Food and Agriculture benefits from better productivity, economic growth and improved infrastructure and the communities benefit through increased income and the opportunity to participate in their own development.

Partner with us

VSO's Senior Private Sector Engagement Manager Paul Benson VSO

Paul Benson, senior private sector engagement manager

Knowledge Exchange is VSO’s corporate employee volunteering offer. Develop your talented employees, while changing lives in the world's poorest communities.

Get in touch to find out how partnering with VSO could benefit you.

Contact: Paul Benson, senior private sector engagement manager

Phone: +44 [0] 20 8780 7345
Email: paul.benson@vsoint.org 
Skype: Paul.Benson304

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