The World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) and the office of Dominique Ouattara, first lady of Cote d'Ivoire, announced today an agreement to develop and implement educational and vocational training programs to benefit cocoa farmers and their families in Cote d'Ivoire. The three-year agreement is valued at $3.6 million and will benefit more than 12,000 Ivorians through successful WCF educational programs that are active in the country and in other West African countries.

The agreement was signed in a ceremony today in Washington by First Lady Dominique Ouattara and Bill Guyton, president of the World Cocoa Foundation. The collaboration expands access to quality universal basic education; develops human resources through vocational training for youth and women; and mobilizes communities, district assemblies, the cocoa industry and others to work together to address development challenges in cocoa communities.

First Lady Dominique Ouattara said, "The place for children is in schools. Working in partnership with the World Cocoa Foundation, we will be better able to insure a brighter future for our children, by allowing them to take their places on school benches instead of on cocoa farms. The World Cocoa Foundation is the symbol of social development promotion in cocoa growing communities, and I welcome the signature of this Memorandum of Understanding, which will enable us to harmonize and coordinate our respective programs to fight against child exploitation in cocoa production."

"Cote d'Ivoire is the world's largest cocoa-producing country, so this agreement is a significant step in the World Cocoa Foundation's mission to improve the livelihoods of cocoa farmers and their families," said Anne Alonzo, WCF chairwoman and vice president for Global Public Policy at Kraft Foods. "We are going to better share resources, training and know-how to boost development and positive change in more areas, more quickly."

Bill Guyton, president of WCF added, "We are pleased to work with First Lady Ouattara as we move forward with educational programs to strengthen cocoa communities. This type of partnership has an excellent track record of improving the quality of life for cocoa farmers and their families."

First Lady Ouattara is an outspoken and effective advocate for women and children. She serves as chairwoman of the Ivorian government's recently created National Oversight Committee, which is responsible for reviewing actions to combat child labor and trafficking, including in the cocoa sector. She is also the founder and chairwoman of the Children of Africa Foundation.

Many experts agree that an important indicator of decreased child labor is increased school attendance by children. WCF's programs respond to this by supporting schools and education programs in cocoa-growing communities.

The World Cocoa Foundation's partnership with the Ivorian government builds upon other WCF to improve livelihoods in cocoa farming communities, such as the Memorandum of Understanding signed in October 2011 with Ghana's Ministry of Employment and Social Welfare.