ABIDJAN, CÔTE D’IVOIRE — Twelve of the world’s largest chocolate and cocoa companies have signed an agreement with the government of Côte d’Ivoire as part of an effort to accelerate actions to make cocoa farming in the country sustainable.

The plan, known as CocoaAction, includes Archer Daniels Midland Co., Armajaro, Barry Callebaut, Blommer, Cargill, Ecom, Ferrero, The Hershey Co., Mars, Inc., Mondel?z International, Nestle and Olam. The companies will come together under the direction of the World Cocoa Foundation, which will serve as convenor for the group and facilitate the implementation of the industrywide strategy.

The strategy is built on four key principles:

• Reinforcing interdependency between productivity-enhancing and community development interventions;

• Commitment to a holistic approach in the form of a productivity and community development package that reflects where industry believes it can make a unique and significant contribution;

• Field level delivery that is customized based on local conditions; and

• Alignment of company programs and interventions within the framework of the national public-private partnership platforms.

The group’s efforts are expected to reach at least 200,000 Ivorian farmers and the communities where they live by 2020. In addition, the strategy is expected to benefit at least 100,000 farmers in neighboring Ghana. Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana account for about 55% of the world’s cocoa supply.

“This agreement represents one of the most significant steps the sector is taking to make cocoa sustainable,” said Barry Parkin, newly-appointed chairman of the W.C.F. and chief sustainability officer at Mars, Inc. “This alignment of objectives, commitment of resources and sharing of best practices is the type of transformative initiative that will really help farmers become more productive and secure the future of cocoa. While it represents a new way for the industry to work with origin countries, it also builds on the strong existing relationships with them. We are honored and proud to move these relationships to a significant next step.”

Representing the Ivorian government, Minister of Agriculture Sangafowa Coulibaly praised the strategy, saying, “Côte d’Ivoire is very pleased that the private sector has decided to coordinate its cocoa sustainability efforts to support those of the Ivorian government.”

Commenting on its participation in CocoaAction, Terence O’Day, senior vice-president and chief supply chain officer at Hershey, said, “A reliable, sustainable supply of ethically grown cocoa is vital to Hershey and the global chocolate and cocoa industry and is the best way to ensure consumers will enjoy delicious, affordable and sustainable cocoa. It’s a major breakthrough for key members of the industry to come together and work as a group to solve the challenges facing cocoa farming in West Africa and achieve our mutual sustainability objectives.”

For more information on the program visitwww.worldcocoa.org.