Mondelez invests in the 'cocoa life'

by Ryan Atkinson
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More than most crops, cocoa’s future depends on sustainability programs today. It’s always been subject to uncertain cultivation practices, environmental dangers and crop disease. Yet consumers around the world demand ever more chocolate products.

Knowing that local conditions — farming practices and community support — are paramount to cocoa’s future, Mondelez International, Deerfield, IL, launched Cocoa Life, a $400 million program to aid more than 100 communities in Indonesia. This country ranks as the world’s third largest cocoa producer and the largest in Asia.

Cocoa Life is now fully operational. By the end of 2015, Cocoa Life will have trained 8,000 farmers in agricultural and business skills to help improve cocoa yields, protect the environment and boost farm incomes. By 2022, the program plans to train 50,000 farmers, which will benefit about 200,000 people in local communities. Cocoa Life includes initiatives promoting women’s empowerment and education for children through a partnership with Save the Children.

“Cocoa Life is taking root in Indonesia because it’s focused on farmers,” said Andi Sitti Asmayanti, director of Cocoa Life for Southeast Asia.

The program is already seeing results in Indonesia. Two years ago, many farmers had abandoned cocoa for other cash crops as yields declined. Existing cocoa trees were aging, and there wasn’t enough infrastructure to support new plantings. Cocoa Life partnered with the Indonesian Coffee and Cocoa Research Institute, Cargill and Olam to offer farmer training, supplies and a new nursery to aid the continuing cultivation of cocoa and significantly boost crop yields.

Mondelez International developed the Cocoa Life program with the goal of sustainably sourcing all the company’s cocoa supply. Its partnerships involve farmers, NGOs, suppliers and government institutions. The company charts the program’s progress at www.cocoalife.org.

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