Farmerline Steps up Efforts to Increase Youth Engagement in the Cocoa Value Chain

Farmerline has launched a game which seeks to educate and incentivise Ghanaian youth into partaking in the cocoa value chain. The game introduces an added experience to Farmerline’s CocoaLink mobile application by bridging the divide between learning and having fun. At the same time, it reels in the attention of the younger generation into different aspects of the cocoa value chain, and the opportunities available to them. 

The game employs the format of the popular TV show, ‘Who Wants To Be Rich’. The goal of the game is to attain 1,000,000 points by answering 15 questions on cocoa and chocolate. As part of the launch, a quiz competition will run till the 30th of December with winners announced each week based on the total score on the leaderboard at the end of the week. Even though it is open to young people, cocoa and chocolate lovers, the quiz is limited to only players in Ghana. 

The Cocoalink app was created by Farmerline in partnership with Hershey and World Cocoa Foundation to train farmers, and encourage Ghanaian youth to be involved in the Cocoa value chain through interactive digital media contents on the mobile application. With over 5,000 app downloads, users have spent 92,000+ minutes learning best agricultural and business practices on the app, CocoaLink has established itself as a resourceful and timely tool for farmers and extension officers across the country. Together with partners like the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, the application has been able to contribute to the adoption of Climate Smart agriculture practices through its Cocoa Zones feature.

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Preparing Ghanaian cocoa farmers for changing climate conditions

CIAT collaborates with CocoaLink to help young farmers mitigate the negative effects of climate change through digital maps


Ghana is one of the largest cocoa-producing countries, with over 40% of the population relying on the crop as their main source of income. Besides providing employment, cocoa has many other economic benefits for Ghana, which makes climate change a real threat to the country’s economy. According to climate projections in Ghana, the northwest of the cocoa belt will no longer be suitable for cocoa by 2050s if no action is taken; traditional cocoa regions will remain suitable, but stresses such as pest and disease pressure and drought are expected to increase; and the western region will remain suitable as well, but adaptation efforts are needed to avoid cocoa production losses (Bunn, Schreyer and Castro. 2018). To mitigate the negative effects of climate change, it is necessary for cocoa farmers to adopt site-specific climate-smart practices that can be implemented quickly and effectively.

As part of CIAT’s ongoing efforts in climate-smart agriculture (CSA), the Center formed a consortium with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Rainforest Alliance, Root Capital, and the Sustainable Food Lab to promote CSA practices for cocoa farmers in the world’s leading producer countries, including Ghana.

The overall goal is to enable farmers to produce more cocoa while adapting to the changing climate and cutting down greenhouse gas emissions. The effort in Ghana is thus part of a broader goal to ensure CSA goes beyond pilot projects and achieves wider adoption.

Achieving wider adoption of CSA practices

In order for CSA practices to achieve scale, CIAT partnered with the CocoaLink App to deploy the Cocoa Zones interactive map and associated CSA training materials. CocoaLink is a mobile application aimed to train and incentivize the next generation of Ghanaian cocoa farmers through interactive contents in a variety of digital media such as videos, pictures and interactive quizzes. The app was built by Farmerline in collaboration with Hershey and supported by the  World Cocoa Foundation, to increase cocoa actors’ understanding of climate-smart cocoa and also to increase youth engagement in cocoa production by sharing critical information and agricultural tips in an innovative way.

Through CIAT’s collaboration with CocoaLink, the Cocoa Zones section was created as one of the key features of the application. The Cocoa Zones is an interactive map created with cocoa production data gathered from the consortium’s CSA project pilot in Ghana. The map breaks down the main cocoa growing areas into five Climate Change Impact Zones and informs users about the characteristics of each zone. Users are able to know the current climate conditions, the impact of climate change and the adaptation measures to take at farm level in each zone.



The tool has great potential for Ghanaian farmers and extension workers, whose work is highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The CocoaLink App also recommends a range of CSA practices that users can follow, depending on their investment capacity to reduce the impact of climate change. They can go from Minimum investment to build resilience, to Bronze, Silver, and Gold; which has the highest amount of resources needed to adopt the optimal adaptation practices.


“The Cocoalink app includes both the climate exposure work as well as a level of investment filter that allows farmers to choose their willingness to invest (gold, silver, bronze). These tools help farmers not only understand the impact of climate change, but also identify specific practices that they can implement on their farms to reduce their exposure to increasingly  uncertain climate. In short, the app allows farmers to develop tailored solutions based on their climate challenges and economic conditions thus avoiding the ‘one size fits all’ trap.”

         -Mark Lundy

          (Theme leader, Sustainable Food Systems, Decision and Policy Analysis (DAPA) Research area, CIAT)

Through videos, photos, maps, quizzes, and articles, CocoaLink shows in a practical way how users can build and run a farm business. The app also features approved inputs that farmers can buy to apply the right products for increased productivity. With over 2,000 app users having spent 92,000+ minutes learning best agricultural and business practices on the app, CocoaLink has established itself as a resourceful and timely tool for farmers and extension officers across the country.

As a scientific organization, one of CIAT’s goals is to deliver on development impact through the knowledge delved from their collaborative research work with partners. Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) is one of the areas to which the organization has dedicated many resources with the aim of delivering sustainable solutions in the agricultural sector to adapt to and mitigate the challenging conditions created by climate variability and climate change. CIAT’s collaboration with CocoaLink is part of such efforts to achieve impact on the lives of thousands of farmers and the cocoa industry at large.

Click here to download the CocoaLink App.

By Leila Serwaah Khalid and Natalie Gutiérrez


Securing the future of Agriculture in the face of an ageing farmer population

A growing concern in agriculture is the issue of the ageing farmer population. Globally, the average age of farmers is 60 years old, and young people are increasingly gravitating towards non-agricultural careers (World Farmers’ Organization, 2017), making the future of agriculture uncertain. Most young people fail to see agriculture as a profitable and exciting career option and Farmerline is focused on changing such perceptions. The organisation is tapping into the entrepreneurial opportunities that the youthful population of Subsaharan Africa presents to build a generation that will revitalise and boost the growth of agriculture. Below is a case study on Farmerline’s efforts toward achieving by the USAID’s Feed the Future initiative.


Farmerline launches new CocoaLink Service: A free mobile app that puts the power of mobile technology in farmers’ hands

  • Mobile application builds on success of CocoaLink’s voice messaging service
  • New service focuses on empowering next generation of farmers
  • Partnership with The Hershey Company will help youth to build and grow successful farm businesses in the cocoa sector

The combination of an aging farmer population, limited access to extension services and lack of professionalization continues to pose challenges to the sustainable future of cocoa farming in West Africa. There is a general lack of interest in farming among the youth who see no future in cocoa farming as a business due to lack of inspiring role models and coaching; limited access to training, inputs and finance; and a lack of requisite farming knowledge. This results in migration to urban areas in search of limited jobs. At the same time, mobile penetration in Ghana is very high, driving digital transformation and posing significant opportunity for accelerating change in the cocoa sector and agriculture in general. Almost half of Ghana’s population has mobile internet access, the second highest rate in West Africa, and young people across the country, and in rural areas, are increasingly going online to play games and use apps like Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. To respond to this challenge and opportunity, Farmerline, in partnership with The Hershey Company (Hershey), has launched a new service for CocoaLink: a simple application that enables smartphone-empowered farmers to acquire actionable knowledge on how to run a profitable agribusiness and succeed as an entrepreneur. CocoaLink allows customized support during a longer period of time and upscaling to reach critical masses. The CocoaLink mobile app features weather information and free courses and quizzes on climate smart agriculture and income diversification. It also features access to finance, discounts on agro-inputs and social media linkages. Content has been integrated through partners such as World Cocoa Foundation’s industry-recognized Climate Smart Cocoa program. While piloting CocoaLink with android users, the Farmerline team received increasing demand for the app from non-android users. This led to the development of an AI powered Farm Assistant built on top of Facebook Messenger to serve non-android users. The users on this platform can now access an abridged version of CocoaLink through the bot. Upon typing “Farm Assistant Bot” in their Messenger application, Facebook users can ask questions as well as access selected articles and quizzes to learn more about profitable farming. “Africa has the youngest population in the world and her youth are poised to create wealth for themselves and their communities. CocoaLink will help this smartphone-empowered generation to make money through agribusinesses and in particular cocoa production,” said Farmerline’s CEO, Alloysius Attah. CocoaLink originally consisted of only a voice messaging service, launched several years ago by Hershey, Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) and the World Cocoa Foundation, which enables farmers with basic-feature phones to continue to receive regular agricultural tips in their local language. The new mobile app service has been ideated and funded by Hershey, in partnership with Farmerline. Hershey believes that in order to elevate youth, barriers to information and knowledge need to be lowered and ways of engagement need to be more customized to the target group. This thinking is reflected in Hershey’s recently launched strategy, Cocoa for Good. Recognizing the need to show youth that farming can be entrepreneurial and profitable, Farmerline and Hershey collaborated to develop and pilot the new application with Hershey’s growers in Ghana. “Youth play a critical role in the future of cocoa farming, and we need to give them the tools and training they need to succeed. Farmerline, as our local partner, has brought CocoaLink to the growing number of smartphone users to give in-depth and customized content and support to today’s and the next generation of cocoa farmers,” said Jeff King, Hershey’s Senior Director CSR, Social Innovation & Sustainability.

About Farmerline

Established in 2013, Farmerline is a global and award winning social enterprise that leverages modern technology and data to connect small-scale farmers to vital services and information that increase profit. The fast growing company provides information, resources, and financial services directly to farmers through innovative mobile technology. Farmerline has a proprietary software platform called Mergdata that offers decentralized traceability, certification audit, farm mapping, farmer education, and analytics solutions to help organizations that work with farmers achieve their sustainability and food security goals efficiently. This technology has collected insights from over 200,000 farmers across 11 countries, mapped over 700,000 acres of land, and farmers have spent over 300,000 minutes learning best practices on the platform. In 2018, the company has been named by Fast Company as Africa’s second most innovative company.

About The Hershey Company

The Hershey Company, headquartered in Hershey, Pa., is a global confectionery company known for bringing goodness to the world through its chocolate, sweets, mints and other great-tasting snacks. Hershey has approximately 17,000 employees around the world who work every day to deliver delicious, quality products. The company has more than 80 brands around the world that drive more than $7.5 billion in annual revenues, including such iconic brand names as Hershey’s, Reese’s, Hershey’s Kisses, Jolly Rancher and Ice Breakers. Building on its core business, Hershey is expanding its portfolio to include a broader range of delicious snacks. At Hershey, goodness has always been about more than delicious products. For more than 120 years, Hershey has been committed to operating fairly, ethically and sustainably. Hershey founder, Milton Hershey, created the Milton Hershey School in 1909 and since then the company has focused on giving underserved children the skills and support they need to be successful. Today, the company continues this social purpose through ‘Nourishing Minds,’ a global initiative that provides basic nutrition to help children learn and grow. To learn more Visit the Hershey company website.

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