inside this edition…


tim_headshot2Recently, during a discussion with colleagues, I was reminded of the groundbreaking work done through the African Cocoa Initiative (ACI), a five-year WCF program funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), 13 WCF member companies and IDH the Sustainable Trade Initiative. ACI will end later this year and WCF is already at work with member companies, USAID and others to design a new program that will allow us to build on ACI’s successes. Before I invite you to participate in the new program’s design, I first want to share what ACI has accomplished since its inception.

One of ACI’s standout achievements centered on planting materials. The program carried out unprecedented genetic fingerprinting on 10,000 samples from cocoa seed gardens and breeders’ stock in West Africa using state of the art molecular biology technology. ACI also established 130 hectares of new seed gardens using the results of the fingerprinting. These seed gardens will provide material to replant nearly 130,000 hectares of cocoa farms annually beginning in 2020, when the plants reach maturity. To enhance extension work and farmer training services, ACI trained 244 Ivorian extension agents, including nearly 50 women, from ANADER. More than 50 agents were trained in Nigeria. To foster market-driven farming input supply services, ACI trained more than 3,100 spray service providers in Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Nigeria who worked with nearly 51,000 farmers. ACI’s input credit model involved traders, microfinance institutions, and input distributors to enable more than 900 farmers in Côte d’Ivoire and Nigeria to access $177,000 USD worth of input credit with a repayment rate of 99%.

ACI helped strengthen national cocoa sector public-private partnership platforms. In Cameroon, the program provided funding and technical support for the organization of the first plenary session of the platform. In Côte d’Ivoire, ACI co-funded platform plenary sessions and helped finalize and print harmonized extension training manuals for farmers and technicians. In Ghana, the program collaborated with other donor agencies and the Ghana Cocoa Board in planning a new strategy for the cocoa sector that is currently being finalized. In Nigeria, ACI helped harmonize extension training manuals, following the example of Côte d’Ivoire. All of ACI’s successes can in no small measure be attributed to the vision and leadership of Sona Ebai, who has headed the program from WCF’s Accra office.

With ACI soon ending, USAID has invited WCF to build on the program’s successes through a new five-year initiative that would directly support CocoaAction. The program will likely have a strong emphasis on planting material, support services, and financing for farmers, within the context of USAID’s overarching food security framework. USAID had indicated its interest in matching industry investments on a dollar per dollar basis up to $5 million USD. A process of co-creation has begun with USAID, with a number of WCF members already stepping up to help in the process. If you are interested in joining the program, please contact Senior Director of Programs for West Africa Paul Macek at I invite all members to help design this new program and, in so doing, make a positive, measurable impact on the lives of West African cocoa farmers.


Läderach et al. (2013) Predicting the future climatic suitability for cocoa farming of the world’s leading producer countries, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.
Läderach et al. (2013) Predicting the future climatic suitability for cocoa farming of the world’s leading producer countries, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.

Climate change poses a major threat to the chocolate and cocoa industry and the farmers who produce the crop. In a 2015 WCF field study, farmers reported experiencing negative impacts on cocoa production as a result of changing weather patterns. The changing climate will also make pests and diseases more prevalent. To help inform current thinking around climate change, WCF is working with the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) Research Program on Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

The multi-stakeholder learning community consists of the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Sustainable Food Lab, and the agricultural lender Root Capital with the following key objectives: 1) develop site-specific climate exposure models for West African cocoa, building on CCAFS past research (see graphic above); and 2) map company climate commitments, drivers and needs.  The first activity is being carried out initially in Ghana in close collaboration with the country’s government and will be expanded to Côte d’Ivoire by the end of 2016. The second activity will help lay the foundation for further company engagement and strategy development.

Over the next few decades land suitable for cocoa production in West Africa is expected to change significantly due to unreliable weather patterns. As illustrated in the climate exposure model, by 2030 many cocoa-growing areas will shrink, pushing farmers to transition to alternative crops. Rain is expected to be less frequent with higher temperatures and longer dry seasons. In other areas, cocoa production will still be possible but farmers may need to adjust their current growing practices to adapt to changing environmental conditions. In the end, this may impact production, quality, labor, and the livelihoods of farmers who produce cocoa.

Many of WCF’s private sector partners are designing or implementing climate-focused projects, but the challenge of climate change is greater than one company project alone. This is a topic that WCF will continue to follow closely, so look for more information in the near future. Until then, share with us what your company or organization is doing to address climate change by contacting



Seedlings at a cocoa nursery.

WCF and the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) have joined forces to fight Cocoa Swollen Shoot Virus (CSSV) disease and improve farmer access to planting material in Ghana. The agreement is part of the country’s cocoa rehabilitation efforts and was signed into action in February by WCF Acting President, Tim McCoy, and COCOBOD Chief Executive, Dr. Stephen Opuni.

In the face of threats to Ghana’s cocoa production, such as CSSV disease, aging cocoa farms and increasing drought, WCF and COCOBOD agreed to identify innovative solutions to ensure the long-term sustainability of the cocoa sector. Under the agreement, WCF and COCOBOD aim to improve access to planting material by increasing capacity for seed production through irrigation technology in areas suffering from drought. COCOBOD will implement a pilot project to assess the impact of irrigation on seed production.

In order to address CSSV disease, WCF and COCOBOD will undertake breeding activities to identify resistant material and develop detection tools for the disease. Efforts to support the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) on identifying natural enemies to control mealybugs, a cocoa pest, and reinforcing regional collaboration through exchanges of CSSV resistant planting material will also be addressed.

Providing access to planting material and fighting CSSV disease in Ghana are part of WCF and COCOBOD’s shared objective of promote sustainable cocoa production. These activities align with both parties’ dedication to enhanced cocoa farmer livelihoods through public private partnerships. More information will become available in future newsletter issues as activities under the agreement continue.



WCF supports of improving cacao varieties in order to defend against present and future threats that may jeopardize production. Supporting projects that ensure cocoa’s longevity is important for genetic diversity and the sustainability of the sector as a whole. One institution focused on fighting threats is the Center for Tropical Agricultural Research and Education (CATIE) located in Turrialba, Costa Rica. WCF and CATIE share the common goal of ensuring cocoa is a viable livelihood for farmers around the world.

CATIE, based in Turrialba, Costa Rica since 1944, was declared an international genebank by IBPGR (now Bioversity) in 1978. CATIE initiated a successful cacao improvement program in collaboration with WCF in 2000, with the main objectives of identifying sources of resistance to moniliasis and black pod diseases and generating high yielding, disease resistant, and high quality varieties.

CATIE’s collection now contains 1220 clones established on nearly 12 hectares. The annual introduction of 25-30 wild clones from the Intermediate Quarantine Station in Reading, UK, and other sources, has permitted the genetic enrichment of the collection for the last 10 years.

CATIE’s first meeting of the Latin-American cacao breeders and celebration of the 70th anniversary of CATIE´s International Cacao Genebank. Turrialba, October 2014.
CATIE’s first meeting of the Latin-American cacao breeders and celebration of the 70th anniversary of
CATIE´s International Cacao Genebank. Turrialba, October 2014.

Dr. Wilbert Phillips-Mora, head of the Cacao Improvement Program, said, “CATIE and WCF share essential objectives and values, such as improving production and living conditions of thousands of farmers who depend on cocoa cultivation for their survival.”

CATIE continues efforts to generate superior varieties of cocoa to overcome the main limiting biological factors of cacao production in Latin America: the low yielding capacity of most farms and the increasing impact of diseases. The maintenance and improvement of CATIE’s genebank is essential for the continuation of the breeding efforts and the exchange of valuable germplasm.

WCF supports CATIE and other genebanks to ensure this valuable work can continue. More information on the importance of cocoa genebanks will be in next edition of the WCF newsletter.

For additional WCF research resources, visit:




MAY 2016

24 – 28: World Cocoa Conference, Bavaro, Dominican Republic

JUNE 2016

5 – 7: CHOCOVISION, Davos, Switzerland

See more cocoa industry events here.


WCF is thrilled to welcome Tree Global as its newest member.

WCF extends its thanks and best wishes to departing Cocoa Livelihood Program intern, Kabeya Muamba.