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“If you walk around the cocoa farms a little you will notice that the trees are old, they’re very diseased. But it takes a little bit of courage to cut out the bad plants and put in new trees,” she told Supply Management.
“That is something you can tell people to do, but farmers know their trees. They’ve been living with their trees for 20 years and it’s very difficult for them to cut them off.”
This is one of the reasons why it has been important for Pieters, program director at Mondelez’s Cocoa Life, that she and her team have a presence in the farms and collectives supplying the food giant. Her presence not only allows her to identify needs that may otherwise not been evident, but is also part of building trust.
In response to the ageing trees, Cocoa Life invested in and distributed improved planting materials. The plan was to provide the material for free in year one, at half price in year two and finally full price in year three. But, said Pieters, once the farmers were onboard and saw the effects of the new material, they were happy to pay for it in full by year two. “They had seen the difference themselves,” she said.
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