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Business News of Friday, 15 July 2011

Source: GNA

COCOBOD links cocoa farmers via mobile phones

Accra, July 15, GNA – The Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) says its CocoaLink programme is now providing text messages to local farmers with access to cell phones.

CocoaLink, a unique farmer outreach programme with the World Cocoa Foundation and The Hershey Company, expects to reach 100,000 Ghanaians in cocoa communities by 2014, according to statement issued in Accra on Friday.

“CocoaLink – Connecting Cocoa Communities” first announced in March 2011, is an innovative technology programme that provides Ghanaian cocoa farmers with critical agricultural and social information that benefits farm families and their communities and enables farmers to ask specific cocoa growing questions and share learning with other farmers.

The statement quotes a CocoaLink user from a cocoa farm in Sefwi Akontombra District in the Western Region as saying: “I am happy to be part of CocoaLink. When I have a problem on the farm I can text or call for help and they will help me. I have registered with my husband’s phone number and when I get the message, my children can help me read it. I’m expecting that it will help us in the community.”

The statement said CocoaLink used voice and SMS text messages delivered in local languages (Twi) and English to connect cocoa farmers with useful information about improving farming practices, farm safety, child labour, health, crop disease prevention, post-harvest management practices and produce marketing – all at no charge.

Farmers will also be able to share information and receive answers to specific questions relating to their cocoa farming livelihoods with experts at the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG).

“The national rollout of CocoaLink by COCOBOD and our partners Hershey and the World Cocoa Foundation is another outstanding example of how we are helping our farmers become more knowledgeable and more productive,” said Anthony Fofie, Chief Executive Officer of COCOBOD.

“CocoaLink has the potential to be one of our most innovative and cost effective agriculture extension tools. Through its practical information, strong literacy training and ease of use, we are quite confident that the CocoaLink will accelerate the transfer of knowledge, improving the lives of many Ghanaian farmers.”

The statement said since March 2011, some 1,500 farmers in 15 Western Region communities had already signed up to participate.

CocoaLink is on track to reach 8,000 Ghanaian cocoa farmers and family members by 2012 and more than 100,000 by the end of 2014.

Mr Tawiah Agyarko-Kwarteng of World Education, which is leading the technology and community training programmes, said: “CocoaLink is truly the right programme at the right time. It is building on Ghana’s growing capabilities in mobile technology to help farmers grow quality cocoa, increase family income and expand opportunities for their children and communities.”

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