In the Dominican Republic, cocoa farming continues to play an important role. The country is the ninth-largest producer of cocoa. Yet there are challenges. The farmers don't make enough money, because their crop yields aren’t competitive. Most are over age 60, and their children are moving away to towns and cities. So I’m excited that the UNDP is coordinating Mondelēz International’s Cocoa Life’s program in the Dominican Republic to improve farmer incomes, improve farming practices and inspire the next generation. Our visions to develop sustainable cocoa-growing communities are aligned. This is an opportunity to change lives.
Currently, Cocoa Life is working with 120 farmers in three communities. We’re creating Community Action Plans—road maps on how to support their needs. Cocoa Life has partnered with Fundación Reddom, an NGO that focuses on rural economic development, and with Conacado, a cooperative of about 10,000 cocoa farmers.
We’re working to raise cocoa farmers’ incomes by increasing their crop yields. Nearly 80 percent have small farms that only produce 30 percent of their potential. To help these farmers improve their practices, Fundación Reddom and Conacado created field schools to teach farming techniques and Good Agricultural Practices. Participants commit to sharing their knowledge with three others, so training one, benefits four.
"Cocoa Life’s training efforts are tailored to address the country’s challenging climate. This will help to increase crop yields and, in turn, improve the livelihoods of cocoa farmers in these communities."
Emilio Pilar Ramirez, executive director of Fundación Reddom.
At the same time, to foster the next generation, Fundación Reddom along with Peace Corps have helped develop a youth training program, where young people create small-business proposals. The best proposals receive financial and technical support to turn them into a reality.
"Our mission is to improve the quality of life for cocoa farmers and their families, which includes supporting and protecting the youth."
Ramon Mosquea Garcia from Conacado
The organization recently developed a policy against child labor, which will be implemented among all farmers in the Cocoa Life program in the Dominican Republic.
In addition to working at a community level, Mondelēz International was also instrumental in developing the national cocoa platform. This plan gives public and private stakeholders—from buyers to government officials—a common goal: Improve the cocoa industry by focusing on the farmers.
I’m already witnessing changes firsthand. Cocoa farmers understand that they have an opportunity for a better life. And the program’s efforts are being measured against Cocoa Life’s key performance indicators, so we can track our progress and contribute with the country sustainable development goals. Farmers are seeing that these plans are not just written and stored in a library - They are coming true.