Growing more cocoa on less land is a major objective of the Cocoa & Forests Initiative. To achieve this, cocoa and chocolate companies have embraced individual coaching coupled with digital decision-making tools for farmers. These tools combine agronomy and economics to help farmers improve their productivity and the sustainability of their farms in the long-term, and build on individualized farm development plans.

Individual farmer coaching helps to consistently maintain farms and increase yields and income from existing cocoa lands, thus avoiding expansion into forests. Using digital tools, field teams can provide customized coaching on farming practices, help farmers prioritize investments, access inputs and planting materials at the right time, and monitor adoption to guide cocoa farmers to improve yields. Bismark Dzinaku, a field team coach, explains: “Farmers are beginning to think of their farms as a business rather than a way of life taken for granted. My role as a coach is to build a personal relationship with farmers, helping them learn to understand the plan and how to implement its recommendations. This personal approach builds trust between a farmer and his coach, which strongly contributes to the overall uptake of farming recommendations.”

One of the farmers using this transformational technology is Nana Yaw Bediako from Addokrom in the Ahafo region of Ghana. “I have taken part in the cocoa programs that cocoa and chocolate companies have introduced to my village for many years, such as certification, and I’ve seen my farm improving thanks to the implementation of new practices and technologies,” he says. Participating farmers can co-create a personalized farm development plan that includes an activity plan and profit and loss statement by plot that helps them make informed decisions about how to maximize return on investment and increase their income. “I signed up to the program as it was an opportunity to learn more technical skills through continuous coaching. It helps me to clearly understand what to expect from my farm and how to get there based on the resources I have available and the ones I should seek for,” continues Nana Yaw. “I’m eager to see the concrete results of the time and resources I have invested in my farm in the coming years for my family and myself.”

More farmers are being assessed for their readiness and more and more companies are replicating this approach. These digital tools are being implemented in Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, and Indonesia, with a wide array of stakeholders, from farmers to manufacturers, governmental institutions to branch organizations.