The positive reactions to our announcement in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana this past May of CocoaAction continue to provide confirmation that the strategy is truly groundbreaking and offers great promise for accelerating sustainability in the cocoa sector. I had the honor to speak at two high profile cocoa-related conferences in June that gave WCF another opportunity to highlight CocoaAction: ICCO’s World Cocoa Conference in Amsterdam and Chocovision in Davos. In both events, WCF received useful feedback on the CocoaAction’s role in aligning industry efforts to significantly improve cocoa farmer livelihoods. Audiences cautioned us to continue to be transparent about tracking progress and to develop clear ways of measuring improvements at the farm level.
The strategy’s announcement coincided with some changes in our member companies. This in turn has meant changes for our Board of Directors, which serves as our governing body. I am especially pleased to welcome Barry Parkin, of Mars, Incorporated, as our new chairman, and Terry O’Day, of Hershey’s, as our new secretary/treasurer. Juergen Steinemann of Barry Callebaut will continue to serve as vice-chairman. This is unquestionably a very strong leadership team that will serve WCF exceptionally well as we continue to map out WCF’s priorities for the coming years.
Speaking of what’s ahead, please mark your calendars for our 26th Partnership Meeting, taking place in Copenhagen on October 15-16, 2014. The meeting, which will focus on how sustainability, standards and certification are inter-related, will also allow the entire cocoa sustainability community an opportunity to be briefed on CocoaAction. We look forward to unveiling in Copenhagen our field-tested toolkit for measuring progress. WCF is also busy organizing seminars in Colombia, Nigeria and Costa Rica taking place later this year. Details on these events, and on the Partnership Meeting, can be found on the WCF website at www.worldcocoa.org. I hope you will be able to join us!
REACTIONS TO COCOAACTION
FROM CHOCOVISION AND BEYOND
In May 2014, WCF announced its new strategy for cocoa sustainability: CocoaAction. The news was received with positive feedback and in June 2014, members of the cocoa community came together at CHOCOVISION in Davos to discuss CocoaAction in depth, among other topics.
WCF Chairman, Barry Parkin, and WCF President, Bill Guyton discuss how the cocoa sector has progressed since the last CHOCOVISION in 2012, and how CocoaAction aims to accelerate sustainability in the sector.
View additional perspectives on CocoaAction here:
To learn more about CocoaAction, visit www.worldcocoa.org.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT: FOOD CROPS AND WOMEN’S COLLECTIVE ACTION IN COCOA COMMUNITIES
Cocoa farming households typically produce more than just cocoa. Food crops, such as cassava, yams or plantain, play an important role in providing sustenance as well as an alternative source of income for cocoa families. However, the women who traditionally grow these food crops often do not benefit from agricultural extension services and have few agricultural resources at their disposal. WCF, as part of its efforts to promote sustainable cocoa communities, is conducting research on the best ways to support women’s food crop production through collective action. Working together, women can overcome many of the constraints they experience and increase their resources, labor, and production.
Support for women in food crop production can benefit the entire community. In one village outside of Divo, Côte d’Ivoire, a group of women are growing food for the school canteen. “School children used to have to go all the way to the fields to eat lunch with their parents,” explains the headmaster of the school, “they would be late, or even wouldn’t return to school in the afternoon.” Now, the women’s group provides one additional school meal each week through their production, helping to keep children in school while improving their nutrition. “We chose to grow cassava together with beans, because these crops are very nourishing and our children will eat well at school,” shares one of the women.
Members of the group also value the increased standing in society and empowerment benefits that collective action has brought them. “At first, many people in the community thought we would fail,” shares another woman. “Now, they see what we have accomplished, and they think we are brave.” Collective action can add value to traditionally overlooked women’s work by bringing food crop production and its benefits to the community’s attention, empowering women by increasing the value attributed to their work.
Ensuring a sustainable cocoa industry requires a holistic approach that targets the entire cocoa-growing community, and in particular the community members who are most vulnerable. To address the specific challenges that cocoa-growing communities face, three interrelated areas of focus have been prioritized for CocoaAction: Child Labor, Education, and Women’s Empowerment.
As part of CocoaAction’s goals for Community Development, country specific targets, activities, and work plans are being finalized.It is clear that the Community Development work must be implemented hand-in-hand with efforts at improving cocoa productivity, in the same geographic areas and with the same populations. CocoaAction members have recognized that only through a harmonized approach will they be able to address some of the most challenging development and productivity issues cocoa farmers face.
IMPROVING FARM-LEVEL PRODUCTIVITY
Cocoa farmers around the world have great potential to double, or even triple, cocoa productivity on their farms. Currently, for most small-scale farmers, cocoa productivity is a fraction of what it could be primarily due to poor soil quality, old farms, pests and diseases, and incorrect farming practices. In most cases, there is not one solution to address all of these farm-level challenges; rather, a mix of interventions is required in order for farmers to realize the real potential of their cocoa farms.
CocoaAction is based on a holistic approach towards improving livelihoods and economic opportunities in cocoa communities with a combined focus on measures to increase productivity and community development. The CocoaAction strategy for productivity will assist farmers to achieve greater returns from their cocoa farms in the short-term and into the future.
CocoaAction promotes a set of interventions that has successfully been tested in WCF and company-level programs to improve farm-level productivity. Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) training sessions teach farmers the most up-to-date cocoa farming skills, including how to safely and correctly treat pests and diseases with necessary agro-chemicals. The plan also includes providing farmers with access to improved varieties of cocoa (both seedlings and grafting) to replace old, low-producing cocoa farms, as well as fertilizers, since soil quality is an important component of productivity.
THE “FIT”: RAPID, LOW-COST EVALUATION
OF FARM SUSTAINABILITY
Known collectively as the Farm Information Toolkit (FIT), these tools will achieve consistent and well-documented methods for industry partners to collect farm sustainability data. The toolkit has been designed to be flexible and compatible for all industry partners to integrate into their own farm monitoring and evaluation programs.
The Farm Information Toolkit is today undergoing a final round of field-testing in Ghana, and recent results demonstrate that WCF is on track to deliver valuable tools and support to an industry working hard to come to terms with measuring farm and supply chain sustainability.
As July ends, WCF’s monitoring and evaluation team is field-testing the toolkit on cocoa farms in Ghana’s Ashanti Region, near Kumasi. Joining the WCF team are Cocoa Extension Agents with the Ghana Cocoa Board, as well as a group of local cocoa farmers. The purpose of recruiting these CEAs and farmers to field-test the toolkit was to ensure we are building the most sensible and user-friendly tools for farm measurement.
For the industry to begin standardizing its approach to measuring sustainability, monitoring and evaluation tools must become easily accessible not only to companies but to all partners, extension agents, co-ops, and farmers who take on the responsibility of monitoring farm sustainability.
Consistent Measurement with Low-Cost Tools:
The toolkit assembled for our field testing was produced using common materials available in hardware stores in West Africa. Written documentation instructs the user on how to assemble the toolkit, and once the materials are assembled, simple, illustration-rich instructions lead the surveyor through the data collection process.
Not only did our farmer surveyors find these tools easier to use than professional-grade survey equipment, our low-tech toolkit also greatly decreased the time needed to make each measurement. The FIT Toolkit eased and sped-up the process of measuring farm data including: assessing good agricultural practices, assessing cocoa diseases, and measuring environmental quality on the farm. With every round of testing, refinements to the toolkit were made, with farmers and extension agents being observed and timed as they completed measurements. The result was faster, easier data collection.
But don’t just take our word for this. Listen to Mr. Kwaku Kpede, a cocoa farmer from Twetweborso, New Edubiase, who helped WCF by testing an early version of FIT Information Toolkit:
“This approach is amazing! It has provided me with ideas about the cocoa trees that I never imagined. This farm inventory process is going to really help farmers, Cocobod and cocoa buyers. This is because farmers will know the size of their farms and Cocobod will know if farmers are practicing all what they’ve been taught on improved practices and buyers will get more to buy if yields go up. It’s a nice way to understand whether we are following the practices.”
WCF is developing and supporting shared tools for measuring and reporting progress towards sustainability in the cocoa value chain.
These data collection methods, tools, and software will assist WCF member companies, governments, and others interested in the cocoa industry to better understand and manage their investments in sustainability at the farm level. Soon to be released as part of WCF’s commitment to support CocoaAction, these methods and tools have been developed through active collaboration of leaders in the cocoa sector since 2012. This effort is designed to develop the most credible information on the cocoa value chain along with open-source methods and tools that directly support data collection and sustainability information needs of CocoaAction.
In January 2014, WCF and The Ford Foundation awarded an Indonesian Cocoa Applied Research & Extension Grant to the University of Mataram in Indonesia to support research on Lombok Island’s sustainable cocoa production. This is an area where pests and diseases, including cocoa pod borer and black pod, are threatening the estimated 5,000 hectares of cocoa trees. The researchers’ goal is to find solutions to these threats in order to support farmer yield without ecological harm to the land.
In their first steps of research, the University looked at the pests and diseases attacking cocoa in further detail, identified local remedial plants and predators to be used to control pests and diseases, and conducted field trials for the application of a liquid containing multi-nutrient fertilizer to test its effectiveness in improving the internal defense system and growth of cocoa plants. Locally available botanical pesticides, such as pest predators like red and black ants, are applied to externally control pest and pathogen populations.
The WCF and Ford Foundation Grant will support this project until 2016, when researchers hope to reach a conclusion on how to treat pests and diseases on the island while also improving cocoa farming productivity and profitability.
TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO BORLAUG FELLOW
Antoinette Sankar, the first Cocoa Borlaug Fellow from Trinidad and Tobago, successfully completed her fellowship in June 2014 at the United States Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) labs in Maryland. The Norman E. Borlaug International Agricultural Science and Technology Fellowship Program Global Cocoa Initiative is a joint program administered by USDA-ARS in cooperation with WCF to support training and research in international agriculture pertaining to cocoa. During her fellowship, Ms. Sankar spent twelve weeks genotyping the DNA of cacao from the International Cocoa Genebank in Trinidad (ICGT) using the single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) technique in a high throughput system.
In Trinidad, Ms. Sankar works at the Cocoa Research Centre (CRC) at The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine extracting and analyzing cacao DNA. She has returned to CRC to share her newly acquired knowledge to train personnel in the technique as well as perform novel analyses, genotyping the rest of the cacao germplasm collection. This will specifically include the wild-type cacao brought to Trinidad from Ecuador to understand its population genetics.
These new research efforts will ultimately assist Trinidad and Tobago’s cocoa industry; CRC’s capacity to genotype the cacao of the ICGT will be beneficial to the global industry. Research with SNPs can also ultimately lead to another interest of Ms. Sankar’s: certification of Trinidad’s cocoa.
“Working with an experienced mentor and alongside other experts helped me to gain competence and benefit from their knowledge and expertise. Exposure to the network of professionals in the cocoa industry has also helped me to understand the importance of standardized practices in our local industry to maintain Trinidad’s prominence in the global cocoa industry,” Sankar said.
Ms. Sankar holds a Master of Science from the University of Florida in Horticultural Sciences, and a Bachelor of Science from The University of the West Indies in Chemistry/Biochemistry, where she earned Upper Second Class honors.
For additional WCF research resources, visit:
UPCOMING WCF EVENTS
15-16: 26th Partnership Meeting & Cocoa Sustainability Trade Fair, Copenhagen, Denmark
UPCOMING WCF STAFF TRAVEL
Bill Guyton, President
- September 8-12: Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire
Tim McCoy, Senior Advisor, Outreach
- August 13-15: Boston, MA (GMA/FMI Sustainability Summit)
- September 8-12: Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire
Adam Mayaki, Grants and Finance Manager
- August 8-16: Accra, Ghana
WCF welcomes new staff members, Jill Harris (Senior Director of Operations and Finance), and Bart van der Linden (Agriculture Value Chain Specialist), to the team. Jill is based in WCF’s Washington, D.C. office, and Bart is based in Amsterdam. WCF is also pleased to welcome new member, United Cacao Peru.