- 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.
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.