Thank you for sharing your concerns about cocoa farming practices in West Africa. The Hershey Company has made a long-term commitment to responsible cocoa growing and is a leader in driving meaningful change for the millions of families that depend upon this important export crop.
As you probably are aware, West Africa is the leading source of cocoa, producing 70 percent of the world's supply. This cocoa is grown on approximately two million small family farms, many located in remote areas. An independent survey conducted in 2002 by the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture, in cooperation with the International Labor Organization of the United Nations (ILO), found that the vast majority of farmers in the region grow cocoa responsibly. No instances of slavery or forced labor were found on the more than 4,500 farms surveyed. The survey did identify areas where change is needed, including improving access to education and safety issues involving machete use and pesticide application.
To help ensure that cocoa is grown responsibly, Hershey has taken a leading role in developing international standards of certification. Along with other industry members, Hershey is a party to the "Protocol" agreement, developed in partnership with Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Representative Eliot Engel (D-NY). The industry has made progress in this effort, building a partnership that includes governments, farming communities, international agencies and non-profit organizations. Tests of a certification system have been conducted and efforts are underway to expand implementation in the region.
Beyond certification, Hershey actively is working to improve the lives of West African cocoa farming families and their communities. Hershey and its industry partners have worked in association with the World Cocoa Foundation to provide training and education to thousands of farmers in the region. This educational effort is focused on improving farm family incomes, promoting safe labor practices and stressing the importance of schooling for farm children. In 2005, The Hershey Company and the International Foundation for Education and Self-Help (IFESH) announced a program to enhance educational opportunity in West Africa through teacher training and skills building. The two-year program is expected to train 2,000 teachers and teachers-in-training and benefit up to 40,000 young people in Ghana and the Ivory Coast.
The teacher training program is just one element of the Initiative for African Cocoa Communities (IACC), a public-private partnership focused on increasing farm family incomes; improving the health, safety and well-being of cocoa farmers and their families; supporting improved access to quality, relevant education; strengthening biodiversity and wildlife conservation; and building stronger, more prosperous cocoa-farming communities.
The IACC is operated by the World Cocoa Foundation, and I encourage you to visit www.worldcocoafoundation.org for more information on the industry's efforts in the world's cocoa-growing regions.
You may also visit http://www.thehersheycompany.com/making/ to find out more about what The Hershey Company is doing to improve the lives of farm families in the world’s cocoa-growing regions.
This is a long-term effort, and Hershey remains committed to improving the lives of the millions of people who depend on cocoa growing for a living and to assuring consumers that the cocoa they enjoy has been grown responsibly.
Your interest in our company is appreciated.