The happiness of the children we met in Dodokoi, in the Akoupé department of Cote d’Ivoire, was immediately evident. Why? They had just received a fully equipped canteen and two toilet blocks with two hand-washing devices at their school, EPP Dodokoi, as part of The Hershey Company’s Cocoa for Good programme with the support of Barry Callebaut, implemented by the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI). The new school infrastructure was inaugurated during an official ceremony held on 24 March, 2021.

The new facilities constructed by ICI and its partners comes as a great relief for parents and children, especially those living in some of the neighbouring remote villages up to about 9km from Dodokoi. As the representative of the Dodokoi’s chief, Yama Dosso, said: “the school is the most important institution of the Republic”. That is why, he said, “having a canteen in a rural community is a sign of poverty reduction by giving children a future; because a hungry man is not a free man.”

These words were echoed by ICI’s Maxime Lourou Bi, who said that: “the school is the future of our children. This is why ICI is building schools and canteens, to prevent children from ending up in the cocoa fields.”

“These buildings will be beneficial and will have an impact on the children’s performance,” said Attoumbgré Marie Chantal, Sub-Prefect of Afféry. For her, “the canteen will allow children from families living in remote villages to eat while going to school, like their friends in the big cities.”

Research suggests that infrastructure providing quality education, such as canteens serving hot meals and safe access to toilet facilities, can encourage children to attend and stay in school, both important elements in the fight against child labour.

In his speech, Houessou César, Sustainability Operations Manager, of Barry Callebaut’s subsidiary SACO, said that “the distance and time to travel to school, is one of the causes of children dropping out. Therefore, this infrastructure provides the incentive to attend and remain in school.”

He also thanked Hershey’s who “has been working to form a closer relationship with the cocoa farming communities” and congratulated ICI “who has shown total commitment in the actions carried out in the fight against child labour”. Continuing, he invited the community to multiply this kind of action in all the schools of the sub-prefecture and even of the region.

After thanking ICI and its partners, Kouadja Achi, President of the Governing Council of the COPAF cooperative, and Gnoleba Guedé Rauland, the representative of l’Inspection de l’Enseignement Préscolaire et Primaire, invited the community to take care of the new structures. On behalf of her friends, Akassa Ludivine Amanda, a student in at the local school, thanked The Hershey Company, Barry Callebaut and ICI.

The canteen of Acho Biechi (in the sub-prefecture of Agboville), also built and equipped with a kitchen by Hershey’s, Barry Callebaut and ICI, was symbolically inaugurated in Dodokoi in the presence of several representatives of the village.