From Norway to Ghana: A Joy Ambassador’s Journey

Progress Blog
From Norway to Ghana:
A Joy Ambassador’s Journey

By Monica Paulsen Ygre, Brand Manager, Freia Tablets and Cocoa Life, Mondelēz International - 11/21/17

Since 2013, the Mondelēz International Foundation’s Joy Ambassador program sends employees to serve and learn in cocoa-farming communities which are part of the Cocoa Life program in Ghana. This two-week skills-exchange journey, in partnership with VSO, gives Joy Ambassadors first-hand knowledge of the challenges and opportunities in securing a sustainable cocoa supply. In turn, Ambassadors share their diverse business skills with cocoa farmers — from marketing, manufacturing, finance, law and more — to help accelerate the impact of Mondelēz International’s cocoa sustainability efforts.

As part of my job implementing Cocoa Life at Freia, our regional chocolate brand in Norway, I’ve given many presentations on the program and its efforts. But there’s nothing like experiencing something firsthand. So, I was thrilled to become a Joy Ambassador and have the opportunity to visit these cocoa-growing communities in Ghana.

I joined 13 colleagues from different countries and areas of expertise, ranging from marketing to operations. As we traveled to the western coast, I saw many signs that read “in partnership with Mondelēz.” It drove home how many people are impacted by the program — there are 447 Cocoa Life communities in the country.

We spent time in three of those communities. In Domana Nyamebekyere, the farmers showed us how they harvest cocoa. The farmers showed us how they harvest cocoa. They picked the ripe pods, removed the seeds, and prepared them for fermentation. After that, the seeds are dried on a mat for 10 to 14 days, with a farmer rolling them back and forth for many hours. Although I had read about the process, it was eye-opening to see how labor-intensive it was. In Europe, I’m accustomed to modern conveniences, so the centuries-old techniques surprised me. It was challenging work, and I was struck by how proud the farmers were of their cocoa.

Working for a chocolate company, farming is of clear importance. But spending time in the community highlighted how it is intertwined with all five focus areas of the Cocoa Life program. Farmers told us how learning how to make soup provided them with the additional income they needed. Because the local school was built with support of Cocoa Life, the students recognized the logos on our clothing. One of the highlights of my trip was painting a mural at the school and sharing toys from my own childhood with the students. I showed them how to use a Chinese jump rope, and they laughed as they spent the afternoon mastering the steps.

Throughout the trip, we were accompanied by our Ghanaian “buddies.” Many of them work for partners who help us deliver the program, so they were able to explain how it works in their communities. We were also eager to share our knowledge with the buddies. My buddy, Namana, had just graduated high school, so we discussed her goals for the future and career options.

We also presented workshops to our buddies, implementing partners, and community members. Topics included management and networking, and my group focused on organizational and planning skills. Our goal was to provide tools to be used in their daily work. It was gratifying to hear positive feedback from participants that our lessons would help them in their everyday life.

Still, I feel like the people of Ghana — their warmth, happiness, and pride in their cocoa — taught me so much more than I was able to teach them. My experience as a Joy Ambassador was transformative, both personally and professionally. Working as a Brand Manager at Freia, a brand with Cocoa Life on pack, I’ve returned with a passion to share the story of the journey of the cocoa bean with all my colleagues, from the villages in Ghana to the chocolate in Norway.