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60,000 farmers to benefit from Cocoa Livelihoods Programme
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Nearly 60,000 Ghanaian cocoa farmers are to benefit from a five-year programme, to improve their livelihoods and income, through training in enhanced farming technologies, learning of new business skills and crop diversification on their farms.

The $40 million programme, being managed by the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF), was first announced in February.

It is being funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and 12 chocolate and cocoa manufacturing companies.

In an interview with the Ghana News Agency ahead of the launch next Monday (October 19), Mr Mbalo Ndiaye, Programme Director, Cocoa Livelihoods Programme of the WCF, said the aim was to boost farmers' incomes in the face of declining production and low quality of crops.

"It is a unique public private partnership with government agencies, chocolate companies and selected non-governmental organisations with expertise in the cocoa sector, combining to deliver more market oriented training to farmers," he said.

Activities in Ghana will focus on improving production and quality at the farm level, equipping farmers with business skills, promoting diversification of income, and enhancing access to inputs and support services, he said.

The programme is a follow up to successful previous government initiatives and cocoa sector development programmes, like the sustainable Tree Crops Programme, funded by the US Agency for International Development and the Cocoa industry.

"The experiences of these programmes are essential in informing the design of the Cocoa Livelihoods programme," he said.

The work in Ghana is part of a larger five country programme, targeting 200,000 cocoa-growing households across Ghana, Cte d'Ivoire, Nigeria, Cameroon and Liberia.

The programme will be active in 21 districts in the Ashanti, Eastern, Brong Ahafo, Western and Central regions. Accra will serve as the Regional Headquarters of the programme.

Mr Ndiaye said successful activities implemented during the project life span would be scaled up and replicated in other regions, while rigorous monitoring and evaluation would be done to track changes in farmer's income.

"We welcome this opportunity to improve the lives of so many cocoa farmers in Ghana and look forward to collaborating with other stakeholders to make this programme a success," said Mr Anthony Fofie, Chief Executive Officer of Ghana Cocoa Board.

"Since February, the Ghana Cocoa Board has been actively engaged in the programme's Steering Committee, helping to plan for the start of activities in the 2010 growing season," he added.

"Making real progress against hunger and poverty starts with small farmers," said Richards Rogers, Programme officer at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

"Crops like cocoa, represents a critical portion of Africa's agricultural economy, and improving farmer knowledge and productivity, and the quality of the cocoa production, can help these farmers boost their yields and incomes so they can improve their lives."

The Cocoa Livelihoods Programme is managed by the World Cocoa Foundation and implemented through a consortium of five organisations including ASI - ACDI/VOCA, Deutsche Gesellschaft fr Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) GmbH, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture /Sustainable Tree Crops Programme, SOCODEVI and TechnoServe.

Funding for the programme comes from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the private sector: major branded manufacturers, The Hershey Company, Kraft Foods and Mars, Incorporated; cocoa processors Archer Daniels Midland Company, Barry Callebaut, Blommer Chocolate Company and Cargill; and supply chain managers and allied industries Armajaro, Ecom-Agrocacao, Noble Group, Olam International Ltd. and Starbucks Coffee Company.

Additional support is provided by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Every participating country has a representative on the Steering Committee.

Established in 2000, the World Cocoa Foundation is a leader in promoting economic and social development and environmental stewardship in 15 cocoa-producing countries around the world.

With nearly 70- member companies from the Americas, Europe, and Asia and Africa, the Foundation actively supports a range of farm-level programmes, harnessing sustainable agriculture practices to improve the quality of life for the millions of smallholder farmers growing the unique crop.
Source: GNA

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