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VSO/Sanjay Awasthi

Cocoa Life Ghana

Increasing profits for cocoa farmers

Cocoa-farming communities in Ghana are benefiting from increased yields and bigger profits thanks to our ‘Cocoa Life’ partnership with Mondelēz International

The global demand for cocoa is increasing. This represents an opportunity for cocoa farming communities in Ghana – a country renowned for its quality cocoa produce. However, factors such as outdated farming methods have resulted in low yields. In some cases production is estimated to be just 40% of its potential size.

Improving cocoa production

Across our first 100 Cocoa Life communities, yields have increased by an average of 37% and income by 49%. (2009-2014)

Cocoa Life, a programme run in conjunction with partner, Mondelēz International addresses the issues behind low cocoa production - enhancing farmers’ abilities to capitalise on global demand and so access a sustainable source of income. 

To do this Cocoa Life focusses on:

  • Training farmers on good agricultural practices
  • Improving access to markets to enable farmers to sell their produce at a better price - such as through the formation of cooperatives
  • Increasing financial literacy
  • Supporting the creation of Community Savings and Loan Associations
  • Supporting people to generate income through micro enterprises
  • Empowering communities to lead their own development by implementing community-focussed action plans

As well as working with smallholder cocoa farmers to sustainably increase production. We work to increase opportunities for women and youth. This is done through:

  • Training women on farming, business management and leadership skills
  • Developing young people’s skills to improve employability
Members of a microfinance group in Ghana | VSO VSO/Purushottam Diwakar

Members of the Village Savings and Loans Association in Odjarde, Ghana. They are one of many groups VSO has supported with training and improved financial management.

Improving knowledge, increasing yields

Ghana’s cocoa produces some of the world’s best chocolate, but farming methods are often outdated and inefficient. Our training, conducted by expert volunteers, has helped reach over 160 cocoa-growing communities to date. 

The training on sustainable agricultural methods has seen dramatic results. With yields increasing by 37% and farmer income up by 49% across the first 100 Cocoa Life communities (2009-2014).  

“I want to encourage the youth to see how cocoa has helped me and how, through cocoa, I can now support my family and my children are at school. It is a good business if you run it in the right way.”

Prince – Cocoa farmer and ‘Cocoa Ambassador’

Income diversification

Through diversification communities can get involved in additional income-generating activities outside of cocoa farming - reducing vulnerabilities to external shocks. Training covers a wide range of topics including livestock-rearing, maize-growing and making crafts for sale.

Furthermore, the programme has facilitated the formation of Village Savings and Loans Associations across the communities it works with. These associations give members access to financial services, allowing them to save profits and borrow to invest in their own businesses.   

In the last two years, there has been a total of 24 Village Savings and Loans Associations, with 680 members.

Cocoa Life Extension volunteer Grace Tim Maynard

“During my training I was also taught about saving and investing. Every month we collect the money from each member of the women’s group and we send it to the bank. We are saving to buy a palm oil processing machine to improve productivity. Our oil processing profits will be used for school fees.”


Grace Osei a ‘Women Extension Volunteer’.  As part of the Cocoa Life programme she received training from a VSO volunteer, and has since created an active women’s group of which has around 30 members. Grace in turn delivers training to members to develop their business skills and to increase their knowledge on healthy living and nutrition, so that families have improved health and income. 

Helping communities drive their own development

In 2017 community action committees were inaugurated and trained. As a result of the training, committees begun pursuing basic community challenges such as:

  • improving school infrastructure
  • improving health facilities
  • improving toilet facilities
  • improving water facilities
  • addressing the lack of skills needed to create income earning opportunities.  

A Total 235 community action plans have been initiated in 2017.

Farming families now have better incomes, and more control over their financial futures. Communities have seen direct benefits from their investments in projects like schools and roads.

Nana is a Cocoa Farmer whose community has been helped by the Cocoa Life Partnership. His community is situated near Asamankese in Ghana.

“ I always used to be in debt, I used to earn small money. My children always needed something to go to school, or there were family expenses so I was always borrowing and worrying how to pay it back. Now because the yield has improved, I feel proud that I am paying the fees of my children and I do not owe anything”


Nana is a Cocoa Farmer whose community has been helped by the Cocoa Life Partnership. His community is situated near Asamankese in Ghana.

Cocoa Life programme locations:

We are currently working in Eastern, Brong Ahafo & Ashanti Regions


Statistics quoted from Cocoa Life 2015 Progress Report and VSO Ghana Country office reviews 2013-2015. View Cocoa Life 2015 Progress Report (pdf)

Case studies from Cocoa Life:

Our partners

  1. Mondelēz International
  2. Olam
  3. Child Rights International

Partner with us

If you are interested in partnering with us, we'd love to hear from you.

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Please consider making a donation, or joining us as a volunteer 

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