When someone told me the other day that The Hershey Company (you know, that big one in Pennsylvania with all the kisses?) is making mobile phones, my first thought was: “why in God’s name would they try to compete with Apple and Google?” My second thought was: “are they available with almonds?”
More interested in finding out the answer to the latter, I went hunting to verify the merits of this preposterous claim. Surely, someone was pulling the leg of the guy who loves bulk candy bars and technology above all else. I have come to find out that this story is true. According to Hershey themselves, they are, in fact, developing a mobile network…in Africa.
That’s right. As a part of their continued effort to improve the lives of cocoa farmers in West Africa, Hershey has been rolling out a mobile phone network in Ghana. It’s called CocoaLink and it started last year. The program is a joint venture with the World Cocoa Foundation and the Ghana Cocoa Board where cocoa farmers will use low cost mobile phones linked to the Hershey CocoaLink network with the idea that it will help them be better farmers.
The idea, as I understand it, is that the farmers will not only be more productive when they can communicate more quickly and efficiently within their community, but the phones will also be used to deliver informative tips to help them. Text and voice messages about cocoa farming best practices, sustainability and family health are sent to the farmers with the hopes that they will adopt better techniques and live healthier lives.
Healthier, more productive farmers means more chocolate for Hershey and more income for the farmers. It’s a win-win. Farmers who make more money and have healthier families are more likely to keep growing cocoa. A healthy cocoa industry helps West African countries, like Ghana, achieve and maintain a more stable and diverse economic system. Sounds pretty good. So, how’s the progress so far?
According to Hershey, it’s going well enough to expand into the Ivory Coast. There are about 600,000 cocoa farmers there and it is estimated that half are already using low cost mobile phones.
I have to say, I’m a little disappointed that I won’t be able to use a cell phone that looks like a Hershey bar here in the US of A. But it sounds like this program has the potential to change lives and support community growth and progress in an area of the world that desperately needs it.
Chocolate is making the world a better place.
Support Hershey in their mission to help West African farmers, buy Hershey’s chocolate candy at candystore.com.