Emerging from that vision, Cocoa Life is one such initiative that collaborates with communities in six cocoa-growing regions across four continents: India, Indonesia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, the Dominican Republic and Brazil.
What Cocoa Life does
The programme is geared to educate and upskill communities in these six countries, so they have an improved means of livelihood and a strengthened sense of togetherness while they inspire the next generation of cocoa farmers.
By empowering cocoa-farming communities, Cocoa Life has laid the foundation for sustainable farming and allowed these communities to take charge of their socio-economic development. Its three-fold interventions include sustainable cocoa-farming businesses, empowered cocoa communities and conserved and restored forests.
Cocoa Life in India
Cocoa was introduced to India in 1965 when an experimental cocoa farm was set up in Kerala by Mondelez India. As cocoa became a viable crop, it extended to the neighbouring states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.
Understanding pests and the resultant diseases in a newly introduced crop like cocoa, combined with the need to increase production and productivity, made research on cocoa imperative. Thus, Mondelez India partnered with key agricultural universities to make research an integral part of the initiative and promote cocoa cultivation in the states. This further paved the road for superior varieties of cocoa in the country.
Creating a positive cycle of influence
India’s cocoa story is a result of a successful partnership. Transforming the lives of over 100,000 farmers in India’s four southern states, Cocoa Life also introduced modern farming practises such as intercropping with coconut, oil palm and other crops, helping farmers achieve economic self-sufficiency.
The Mondelez India Cocoa Life team also actively conducts Good Agricultural Practice or GAP training for close to 25,000 cocoa farmers annually through various outreach modes such as farm meetings, seminars, cocoa van meetings, and educational series using interactive mediums.
GAP training complements the agri research with the transfer of technology to the farmers, thereby ensuring that India has the best cocoa productivity. Cocoa farmers are actively encouraged to adopt Good Environmental Practises — using organic fertilisers, bio-control agents and drip irrigation to minimise wastage.
Raju, a farmer from Kerala, who inherited the land from his father and continues to proudly preserve the oldest cocoa tree on his land planted 50 years ago, successfully maintains his four acres of land without ever feeling the need to sell. He believes that being able to preserve the land is essential in order to ensure its future-proofing for the generations to come. Raju’s land that once consisted of paddy fields separated by narrow canals, now hosts more than 10 different crops including cocoa. He proudly manages the farm with his son who hopes to take the legacy forward.
In Andhra Pradesh, farming is also interwoven with family legacy and pride. Subba, who inherited two acres from his father, has expanded the farm to10 acres of land with his brother. He plans to pass the farm down to his son.
Cocoa Life strives to empower women in cocoa-growing communities boosting the positive impact, becoming a catalyst for change and driving accelerated development.
This crop provides employment and income to thousands of women in rural areas as cocoa is a woman-friendly crop. The India Cocoa Life programme has exclusively trained over 5,000 women in health and hygiene, livelihood and empowerment, besides farming.
M. Kumari, a cocoa worker from the West Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh, feels a sense of achievement every time she thinks about how the plants she raised have found a home across many farms in the state. She is a proud member of the seedlings production programme and has been able to ensure a steady flow of income. Beyond this, the Cocoa Life programme has also been able to instil hope in her dream of providing a good future for her children.
The ripple effect
To further extend support and inspire marginalised tribal farmers, in remote locations within these states, to adopt good agriculture practices, the Cocoa Life team identified tribal communities and trained them in cocoa farming.
Following the successful enrolment of over 5,000 tribal farmers into the cocoa programme, the farmers were supported with agricultural equipment to undertake the necessary cultivation operations as a group. Soon after this, cocoa-collection centres were opened by Mondelez India close to the farmers’ hamlets to facilitate easy sale and immediate payment for their produce.
Educating for life
The Cocoa Life programme also supports the education of the cocoa farmworkers’ children. Special attention has been given to upgrading school infrastructure and the quality of education in these locations along with the Sports for Development programme that ensures children stay back in school and remain fit and active. Through these initiatives, Mondelez India has been able to make a meaningful difference in more than 40 schools, nurturing over 4,000 children.
The Cocoa Life programme has proved to be a successful model – one that has created a huge social impact among farmers, farmworkers, women and children from rural communities of the cocoa-growing regions.