Cadbury to use sustainably-sourced cocoa in bid to secure farmers' future

All Cadbury chocolate bars sold in the UK and Ireland are to use sustainably-sourced cocoa, in a bid to secure a future for farmers and supplies of the key ingredient.

Farmers in Ghana, from where cocoa for Cadbury chocolate has come for more than a century, are being helped to boost their yields and profits as part of the company's Cocoa Life sustainability scheme.

The programme is also funding community initiatives to improve lives, ranging from giving children bicycles to get to school to helping develop other businesses such as bakeries and soap-making.

It is part of a 400 million US dollar (£310 million) investment over 10 years across six countries by Cadbury-owner Mondelez International to secure future cocoa supplies.

Ghana's cocoa sector faces major challenges, with people trapped in unprofitable subsistence farming and its future threatened by climate change.

The average age of cocoa farmers is 55, as youngsters head to cities to find jobs or even turn to illegal gold mining.

Steve Mann, from Cadbury, said: "Without cocoa there is no chocolate, without the next generation of cocoa farmers and a thriving cocoa supply chain, there's no cocoa.

"And as a business, cocoa being a major commodity which we use in our supply chain as a chocolate company, it's very important for us to make sure right into the future we have a sustainable supply of cocoa."

By the end of 2018, all Cadbury chocolate bars in the UK and Ireland will carry the Cocoa Life symbol, showing cocoa is sourced through the programme, which works with a number of charities and partners with Fairtrade to verify farmers get a fair deal.

A key element is encouraging better agricultural practices, including weeding and pruning, planting shade trees to protect the cocoa from rising temperatures and ensuring the best number of plants per acre.

The programme is also working with a company, Tree Global, which grows more resilient, fast-yielding plants.

Adjei Emmanuel Mensah, who has planted trees from Tree Global, saw his first yields within 18 months - compared with a normal wait of three to five years.

"The trees are very fast growing, they need no fertiliser, no chemicals, I'm using the weeds as fertiliser, I try to clear the weeds when I see them trying to grow. This has improved the farm. I'm very happy."

He added: "The youth is always trying to run away from the villages, but now they are seeing the Tree Global farms they have more interest."

Under Cocoa Life, farmers receive a premium for their cocoa on top of the price set by the government, boosting incomes.

There is also investment in setting up savings and loans schemes for women, enterprise training, building nursery schools and providing mosquito nets to prevent malaria.

Comfort Asantwaa, a cocoa farmer with six children and six grandchildren, said: "There was the distance the children have to go to school - after joining Cocoa Life, they were given bicycles to go to school, and have been able to complete school.

"They teach us soap-making and then out of that we are able to take care of the children."

Yaa Peprah Amekudzi, country lead for the Cocoa Life Ghana programme, said that in the 447 communities where the scheme is operating so far, "I've seen a more than marked difference in how people are thriving".

Worries remain about whether young people will go into cocoa farming, but at a school where Cocoa Life has supported a reading club and built teacher accommodation, in one group many boys and some girls were planning to farm in the future.