Cocoa Sustainability Programs: Cosmetic or Serious Business?

The recent outrage of the effect of illegal mining in various farming communities across the country has brought to bear, a tacit revelation of how poor cocoa farmers are knowingly burning down their cocoa farms and selling the mineral rich land to illegal miners for a onetime payment. This revelation has led to questions about the existence and effectiveness of the various cocoa sustainability programs embarked by major cocoa buying and manufacturing companies in Ghana.

Cocoa sustainability programs are direct social initiatives developed to improve upon farming practices, cocoa value chain processes and most importantly to make better the lives of small holder farmers in the various farming communities across the country. Nestle has its Nestle Cocoa Plan, Mondelez has its Cocoa Life Program, Solidaridad Network has the Maso cocoa academy program, Touton has the Climate Smart Cocoa Program, Cargill has its Cargill Cocoa Promise Program and Barry Callebaut which is has the Horizons Cocoa Program and its recently launched Forever Chocolate Sustainability Program.

All these programs each claim to have trained not less than 100,000 cocoa farmers and lifted 500,000 more out of poverty. It sounds like a plausible milestone on the surface till these programs are subjected to strict proof.

KPIs-Cocoa Sector_Ghana

When the various sustainability KPIs are measured against the output of the programs along with field impact assessment, it becomes obvious that some programs take cocoa sustainability more serious than others. Nestle Cocoa Plan had the least active program, it had no ongoing sustainability campaign or scheduled farmer assistance training. Touton SA’s has a targeted sustainability program which aims to increase yield by improved land management and reduce emissions from deforestation and land degradation. Cargill’s Cocoa Promise programs is run more like a community social responsibility program than a cocoa sustainability programs,the program has built 3 primary schools in Cargill sourcing communities in Ghana.

Mondelez’s Cocoa life, Solidaridad Network’s Maso Cocoa Academy and Barry Callebaut’s Horizon Cocoa, seem to have a much more active sustainability program and direct impact on cocoa communities in Ghana. These programs although successful in their targeted sourcing areas, they were still operating on a limited scope which did not cover youth orientation to the profitability of cocoa, land reclamation management and financial support to potential farmers. World Cocoa Foundation still remains the leading advocate for cocoa sustainability around the world.

If sustainability programs are to have the desired effect of increasing cocoa yield and improving the lives of farmers, then buying companies or cocoa manufacturing companies must ensure they roll out a much more comprehensive program which actually goes to solve the problems of cocoa farmers and makes the cocoa production more attractive to the youth.


This article was written by Christian Ndabi, the Campaign Coordinator of Back-To-Agric Initiative. Christian can be reached on cell: 0244097059 and via email:


Require further information? Contact the Editor:

Call the Farmer Helpline: 0500000996

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *