Cargill: launches 82 Farmer Field Schools

Minneapolis / MN. (cg) Cargill´s Cocoa + Chocolate business has committed to doubling the number Farmer Field Schools it operates in C?´te d’Ivoire to 300 by mid 2010. Initially the company will launch another 82 schools this month building on the 150 already established and overall the program will train 10’000 farmers by the end of the year.

The commitment celebrates ten years of successful farmer training by Cargill in C?´te d’Ivoire and underlines the company´s belief that training farmers successfully is key to building a sustainable supply chain, helps increase farmers´ incomes and supports the future growth of cocoa farming.

Harold Poelma, managing director of Cargill Cocoa + Chocolate explains, «Providing training and support enables farmers to increase yields, improve quality and through these – most importantly – to increase their incomes. By raising awareness of environmental, health and social issues our program is also helping local farming families and communities. In short, the training is directly benefiting farmers today and supports them in becoming successful entrepreneurs for the longer term».

As a result of the training, farmers are benefitting from a 30 percent increase in their incomes from higher yields, as well as an improvement in the quality of their crop. This quality improvement also leads to an increase in farmers´ earnings as they receive a quality-related bonus payment from Cargill.

During the ten month Farmer Field School training program, farmers are trained in good and safe practices focusing on farming techniques and post-harvest activities such as pruning, plantation renewal and cocoa fermentation methods. In addition the program also stresses broader social aspects, such as the importance of ensuring children´s education and HIV awareness.

Since February, 82 of the additional 150 schools have started to be put in place and the remainder are expected to be operational by mid-year. In total, the 300 schools will train 10’000 farmers spread over 35 farmer co-operatives by the end of 2010.

Cargill established in C?´te d´Ivoire in 1998 and has built an extensive network on the ground. Shortly after establishing its operations Cargill began its farmer training program initially as one-day quality seminars to inform farmers about better agricultural and post-harvest practices. This led to the current intensive ten month training program which enables farmer cooperatives to improve their incomes and achieve UTZ Certification.

The UTZ Certified cocoa program – founded by Cargill, along with Dutch development organisation Solidaridad and others in the cocoa sector – has introduced independent certification to improve agricultural, environmental and social practices in cocoa production. The Farmer Field Schools will enable co-operatives to become UTZ Certified, and this means that by the end of this year more than 10’000 tonnes of cocoa beans will be available for use in sustainably certified chocolate and cocoa products.

«We are wholeheartedly committed to sustainable farming practices», asserts Harold Poelma. «Our training has proven to be truly beneficial to cocoa farmers and their communities, as well as benefiting our customers. We are continuing to build on the success in C?´te d’Ivoire by expanding our farmer training activities to the cocoa growing regions where we operate in Asia».

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