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Cocoa producing regions throughout Côte d’Ivoire are battling declining yields and increased tree mortality, but affordable fertilizer production and distribution is one of the most effective tools to help reverse this trend. And we’re excited to announce that the first shipment of a new fertilizer blend recently arrived in the famous cocoa belt of Soubre, a region where local farmers have been struggling to revitalize declining cocoa farms.
Using fertilizer on cocoa farms is not a new concept, but as high quality fertilizer was very expensive and difficult to get, farmers would rarely use it. Until recently little was known about its actual impact and what type of return on investment farmers could expect. Important details, such as how much fertilizer would be needed, and the cost, were also unknown.
A new study by CIRAD, the French agriculture research organization, has some promising new answers and results. The study, funded by IDH Sustainable Trade Initiative, Mars Chocolate and Yara, shows that already after one year of application, degraded cocoa foliage is improving. And farmers are talking about the impact on their farms – cocoa trees are doing so much better that in some instances they can no longer see the sky. Fertilizer use has also slowed the rate of tree mortality and resulted in higher yields and better, higher-quality pods.
While there was considerable variability based on several factors including rainfall and maintenance, this study is showing a significant positive impact on cocoa production.
Farmers will have to consider a number of good farming practices to enhance the region’s cocoa production, but we think fertilizer is one of the most crucial – and has the potential to produce prompt returns. Introducing it on the ground in Soubre is a win for farmers, consumers, and entrepreneurs, and it brings us closer to our goal of making our cocoa production as sustainable and profitable for local farmers as possible.
This post originally appeared in the Mars Sustainable Cocoa Initiative blog.