How Education Creates Resilience One Cocoa-Growing Community at a Time

David Schwebel, Global Community Advisor for Cargill

Author David Schwebel

Global Community Advisor
Photo by Cargill

Cocoa-growing communities face many challenges, ranging from a lack of basic services and infrastructure, to food insecurity and limited access to education. Although these issues are interdependent in complex ways, improvements in one area can bring improvements in others.

That’s why Cargill is deeply committed to improving access to education in cocoa-growing communities. It’s one of the variables that can have the largest impact on complex issues like child labor, educating the next generation and long-term community development. Better educational opportunities mean children are more likely to be in the classroom and not working on the farm. And stronger education at all levels will enable young people to access a variety of livelihoods when they’re grown – in the cocoa sector and beyond.

That’s why Cargill is engaging with a broad set of partners to improve educational opportunities for children in cocoa-growing communities, so we can equip and transform entire villages together based on the guidance from communities themselves. Here are a few examples of the different approaches we are taking:

Classroom in sustainable cocoa growing community in Côte d'Ivoire
Classroom in Côte d’Ivoire. Photo by Cargill.

We are working with the Jacobs Foundation, The International Cocoa Initiative (ICI), TIDE Learning, and the Ministry of Education in Côte d’Ivoire to provide access to quality education to children exposed to child labor. The Projet d’Amelioration de la Lecture, Ecriture et du Calcul (PALEC) is an innovative approach where we create multi-grade classrooms for out-of-school children using a technology-based learning tool. It makes teaching more interactive and allows educators to track progress.

Over three years, we’ve seen positive results with more than 300 children in five communities. Attendance is encouraged by offering daily meals in the school canteen, which has the added outcome of improving students’ nutrition. Meanwhile, the children are rapidly making progress in learning to read, write and count.

The PALEC project has proven to be an effective way to establish community schools close to where children live with a an interactive teaching approach using tablet devices. Cargill is also supporting the creation of formal schools in West Africa. That’s why we are partnering with CARE to build six new schools in Ghana. These schools are a direct response to what community members identified as their main needs. Once completed, the schools will benefit more than 700 children in the communities of Fahiakobo, Lineso, Fojourkrom, Juabo, Afofiekrom and Adjeikojo. Our partnership with CARE is focused on establishing more prosperous, sustainable, and resilient communities with a development approach that engages those communities throughout the entire process.

Education is also a pathway to the rest of life. In Côte d’Ivoire, we are partnering with Save the Children to help young people gain the life, technical and business skills to support themselves and their communities many years from now – whether their businesses and jobs are connected to cocoa or another activity. Here, too, young people who are out of school are given the chance to reconnect to learning that makes sense based on a job market assessment we conducted and their own interests. When they finish, they will choose whether to do further vocational or apprenticeship training, get a job or start their own micro-enterprise.

In other words, it’s key to have a flexible approach tailored to local community needs. All this work is folded into comprehensive, community-led needs assessments that help villages build a plan for their own success. It means that education is acting as one piece of the bigger puzzle in building a strong cocoa sector for generations to come.