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Hershey’s CocoaLink Mobile Phone Program Delivers 100,000 Farmer and Family Messages During First Year in Ghana

HERSHEY, Pa.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Aug. 6, 2012-- The Hershey Company (NYSE: HSY):

  • 40% of registered farmers in CocoaLink have attended community farming and literacy training sessions
  • Outreach program in Ghana’s cocoa growing region includes local language text and voice mail to improve farmer output and raise income
  • Largest mobile farmer technology program of its kind on track to reach 25,000 farmers in 2012

Ghana cocoa farmers have received more than 100,000 messages related to better farming and family well-being during the first year of CocoaLink, a mobile phones outreach program, sponsored by The Hershey Company (NYSE: HSY), the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) and the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF).

CocoaLink, a first-of-its kind program that uses mobile voice and SMS text messages delivered in the local language or English, connects cocoa farmers with important information about improving farming practices, farm safety, child labor, health, crop disease prevention, post-harvest production and crop marketing. The program launched with its first message to Ghanaian farmers in July 2011 is now the largest mobile farmer technology program of its kind. Working with many on-the-ground partners, CocoaLink is on track to reach 25,000 farmers by the end of the year.

“CocoaLink has proved to be an innovative and effective way to reach farmers in the remote cocoa growing villages and make a meaningful impact on their livelihoods and their families,” said Tawiah Agyarko-Kwarteng, Project Director of CocoaLink & ECHOES for World Education who has implemented the program in 15 villages in Western Ghana. “CocoaLink helps agriculture agents reach many more farmers than they could through face to face visits and we are also excited by the progress in literacy training and reducing the technology gap for rural women.”

CocoaLink enables farmers to ask specific cocoa growing questions and share learnings with other farmers about critical agricultural and social information, benefiting farmers, their families and entire cocoa-growing communities. The mobile technology program is managed through a partnership between Hershey, COCOBOD and WCF, and is funded entirely by Hershey.

A Successful First Year

During its first year, CocoaLink has delivered more than 100,000 critical farming and social messages to more than 4,000 participating farmers across Ghana. These messages teach farmers how to employ modern farming techniques such as pest control and pruning that improve their yields and raise their incomes. Research has shown that improved incomes and livelihoods are critical to getting children in cocoa communities into school and keeping them there.

How CocoaLink works:

  • Create, launch and maintain a two-way message delivery system with a feedback loop – CocoaLink has created and maintains a fully operational two-way communications platform that successfully delivers critical information to over 4,000 farmers. The program utilizes a network of field officers/extension agents who work with farmers in 15 target communities. The agents collect information and facilitate answers to critical farming questions and issues. As word of CocoaLink rapidly spreads across the region, approximately 25 percent of registered subscribers are from outside the targeted communities.
  • Improve farmers’ production and marketing capacity – More than 100 farm extension agents across the country are now registered into the program and working to help farmers both improve their productivity as well as better understand cocoa-market pricing and how to effectively market their crops for maximum income.
  • Form a cocoa farmer information network in 15 Ghanaian communities – Weekly sessions have been held in each of the 15 target communities to further educate farmers on mobile phone use and issues such as child labor and agronomy. Farmers were able to bring key concerns to these meetings and get immediate answers. The CocoaLink information is further merchandised to farmers on the “CocoaLink News,” broadcast in Community Information Centers, which are village public address systems in 13 of the 15 target villages.
  • Implement performance monitoring and farmer extension services through a two-way messaging system – Field officers use a database tool to conduct ongoing monitoring of community educational sessions to gauge the effectiveness and success of messaging. The tool and process enable project managers to measure data in real time and quickly address any emerging issues and make swift decisions. These may include helping farmers address child labor, pruning and weed control in cocoa farms.

CocoaLink partners are now focusing on expanding the program across three cocoa regions in Ghana: Western, Ashanti and Eastern. Based on the success of the CocoaLink mobile phone program in Ghana, Hershey and its partners are working with government officials in Cote d’Ivoire to expand the network into the country, which is also a major global cocoa producer.

A $10 Million Commitment to Responsible Cocoa Sourcing

CocoaLink is part of a broad set of programs and initiatives by The Hershey Company to support cocoa farming in West Africa and responsible cocoa sourcing in the region. Hershey is investing approximately $10 million in West Africa by 2017 to improve cocoa farming, community health and reduce the worst forms of child labor. More information about Hershey's cocoa sustainability efforts is available at: www.HersheyCocoaSustainability.com.

About The Hershey Company

The Hershey Company (NYSE: HSY) is the largest producer of quality chocolate in North America and a global leader in chocolate and sugar confectionery. Headquartered in Hershey, Pa., The Hershey Company has operations throughout the world and more than 12,000 employees. With revenues of nearly $6 billion, Hershey offers confectionery products under more than 25 brand names, including such iconic brands as Hershey's, Reese's, Hershey's Kisses, Hershey's Bliss, Hershey's Special Dark, Kit Kat, Twizzlers, and Ice Breakers. Hershey also offers premium and artisan chocolate products under such brands as Scharffen Berger and Dagoba through the Artisan Confections Company, a wholly owned subsidiary. The company is focused on growing its presence in key international markets such as China and Mexico while continuing to build its competitive advantage in the United States and Canada.

For more than 100 years, The Hershey Company has been a leader in making a positive difference in the communities where its employees live, work and do business. Corporate Social Responsibility is an integral part of the company’s global business strategy, which includes goals and priorities focused on fair and ethical business dealings, environmental stewardship, fostering a desirable workplace for employees, and positively impacting society and local communities. Milton Hershey School, established in 1909 by the company's founder and administered by Hershey Trust Company, provides a quality education, housing, and medical care at no cost to children in social and financial need. Students of Milton Hershey School are direct beneficiaries of The Hershey Company's success.

About the World Cocoa Foundation

The World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) is an international membership foundation that promotes a sustainable cocoa economy by providing cocoa farmers with the tools they need to grow more and better cocoa, market it successfully, and make greater profits. These efforts help increase the supply of cocoa and help guarantee chocolate lovers access to their favorite products. WCF's membership includes cocoa and chocolate manufacturers, processors, supply chain managers, and other companies worldwide, representing more than 80 percent of the global cocoa market.

Source: The Hershey Company

The Hershey Company
MEDIA CONTACT:
Jeff Beckman, 717-534-8090