In 2008, The Hershey Company (NYSE: HSY) was introduced to a village of indigenous people tucked deep in the mountains of the Junín region of Peru. This village was using cocoa farming to rebuild its community following years of devastation by guerilla warfare. Hershey decided to support the community – San Juan de Cheni. The company committed to help fund the infrastructure needed for the village to be successful in cocoa farming and to buy cocoa grown in this area.
Women from San Juan de Cheni remove cocoa beans from pods growing in the village (Photo: Business Wire)
“From the day we learned of San Juan de Cheni, we knew this village was something special,” said Ray Major, Senior Manager of Sustainability Initiatives. “The people in this community are intensely driven to rebuild their community through cocoa farming and it has been rewarding to watch the village improve its fortunes with a little help and support.”
San Juan de Cheni grows a unique variety of cocoa with a distinct flavor. Hershey uses the village’s cocoa in its high-end artisan chocolate products.
Prior to Hershey’s support, San Juan de Cheni cocoa farms had approximately 500 trees per hectare and cocoa farming had been negatively impacted by guerilla activity in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The community chose cocoa as its primary crop to help restore its economy, position it for the future and preserve the traditional values of farming embedded in the culture. Hershey’s goal in supporting San Juan de Cheni was to more than double the amount of trees per hectare producing cocoa.
Starting in 2010, Hershey, its sourcing partners and the community farmers focused on increasing the number of trees that produced the best quality and highest quantity of cocoa pods. With Hershey’s support, the community built a nursery to increase tree stock and Hershey funded the training and tools needed to improve the productivity of the cocoa farms. The training included grafting methods to populate the farms using the community’s best trees. Today, more than 50 farms have over 1,100 thriving cocoa trees per hectare and tree stock and yields continue to improve.