Bill Headshot_v3

In May 2014, WCF Board Members traveled to West Africa to launch “CocoaAction”, an industry strategy designed to improve livelihoods and farm productivity for more than 300,000 small scale cocoa farmers.  This trip culminated in the signing of Memorandums of Understanding between WCF and the governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana to align our intentions with the national cocoa plans of each country. What makes CocoaAction unique from past efforts is that it is led by the private sector, embraces partnerships with key stakeholders, and includes a common framework for companies to measure progress overtime.  Perhaps most importantly, it is “farmer-centric” with the understanding that the success of the strategy is reliant on the buy-in and adoption of the approach by cocoa farmers.

During the first week of October, I had the opportunity to participate in the annual “Cocoa Day” celebrations in Côte d’Ivoire, marking the start of the marketing season. Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara opened the event in Yamoussoukro that was attended by more than 1,000 participants from the public and private sector. WCF was honored to be recognized in President Ouattara’s speech, which outlined the priority areas for the cocoa sector, including the preservation of natural resources, climate change adaptation and improving farmer prosperity. The First Lady was rightfully recognized for her leadership in the fight to prevent child labor.  The highlight of the day was when farmer leaders, both men and women, were given awards by President Ouattara for their efforts.  Similar “Cocoa Day” events were held in Ghana and other neighboring cocoa producing countries as well.

It is clear that CocoaAction is already demonstrating the power of alignment within the private sector and with our stakeholders. As the strategy begins implementation in 2016, WCF and our members will be working directly with farmers at a level and intensity that surpasses all previous efforts and begin reporting on progress.  We look forward to sharing with you our achievements and challenges over the coming months and years.

Earlier this month I announced my resignation from WCF after 15 wonderful years. Look out for my reflections in the November/December issue of the WCF newsletter.


Women provide approximately 85% of the labor for food crop production in Côte d’Ivoire and around 45% of the labor required for cocoa production. This participation level differs significantly in yield gaps for cocoa, with female farmers reporting lower yields than their male peers. Using gender-equitable approaches in community development within the cocoa value chain can lead to productivity gains; studies show that closing gender-based yield gaps could generate an additional 30,000 tons of cocoa beans.

Nathan Bello,(second from the left – front row), Project Manager for Nestlé Cocoa Plan Programme in Cote D’Ivoire in group photo with female and male leaders of cocoa cooperatives and cocoa growing communities, receiving training on gender awareness at the Nestlé Research Centre in Zambakro, Cote D’Ivoire. Workshop was organized in Aug 2014.
Nathan Bello, (second from the right– front row), Project Manager for Nestlé Cocoa Plan Program in Côte d’Ivoire, in group photo with leaders of cocoa cooperatives and cocoa growing communities, who received training on gender awareness at the Nestlé Research Centre in Zambakro, Côte d’Ivoire.

To address this disparity WCF partnered with the Netherlands’ Royal Tropical Institute (KIT), with support from the Walmart Foundation, to create an online resource that would help cocoa and chocolate companies and national partners improve outreach activities with cocoa communities. The online resource, named the Gender and Cocoa Livelihoods Toolbox, will serve as a platform where best practices in gender focused outreach can be documented and shared to increase learning within the sector, and ultimately improve gender balance within cocoa communities. Users will gain a better understanding of social issues that underlie gender inequities in cocoa communities, contribute to strengthening food security systems and promote economic empowerment for farmers through gender equitable investment in both women and men.

The toolbox provides industry partners and community development experts with practical approaches to engaging female farmers in the cocoa value chain. Cocoa communities will benefit from interventions using tools that more closely capture the diversity of needs and strategic priorities of their communities. These tools include gender capacity self-assessment, gender focused situational analysis, gender disaggregated data collection, assessment of the role of women in cooperatives, and how to set up a school garden.

Suzanne Ngo-eyok and Ethan Budiansky, Director and Deputy Director of the Cocoa Livelihood Programme – CLP II (sitting at the table). In the company of ICRAF field staff,  a session is taking place in the village of Petite Bandoukou in the Soubre region of Cote D’Ivoire to present the benefits of the CLP II programme to female farmers and community leaders. Under its Vision for Change programme, Mars is providing assistance to female farmers with capacity building in good agricultural practices for food crops and cocoa production. The Walmart foundation grant leverages CLP II capacity building efforts that target female farmers in cocoa producing regions including Cote D’Ivoire.
Suzanne Ndongo-Seh and Ethan Budiansky, director and deputy director respectively, of the Cocoa Livelihood Program (CLP) (seated at the table). In the company of ICRAF field staff, a session is taking place in the village of Petite Bandoukou in the Soubré region of Côte d’Ivoire to present the benefits of the CLP II program to female farmers and community leaders. Under its Vision for Change program, Mars is building the capacity of female farmers with capacity building on good agricultural practices for food crops and cocoa production.

Next steps will be to provide industry partners with training on proper use of the tool, document industry experiences, sharing lessons learned, and promoting best practices. This process will encourage the learning needed to constantly upgrade tools and keep them relevant to industry and community expectations.

To view the toolbox, visit:


Lead_2Over the past three years, WCF, through its African Cocoa Initiative (ACI), has provided support for genetic fingerprinting of the most important clones in the breeders’ collections and seed garden materials in West and Central Africa, including Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria and Togo. These efforts are significant for the cocoa sector because many farms in West and Central Africa are ageing and seeing decreased average production. Sustainable production can be achieved by increasing farmers’ access to cultivars improved for tolerance to biotic (pests and diseases) and abiotic (soil fertility, erratic climatic conditions, etc.) stress, and by providing a stimulating framework for rehabilitating aged trees with high-yielding improved varieties.

About 2,000 genotypes (1,000 from breeders’ collection and 1,000 from seed gardens) from each country were fingerprinted, using 85 single nucleotide polymorphic (SNP) markers. The results showed that mislabeled trees were present both in breeders’ collections and seed garden materials. The presence of both synonyms (clones with similar names but different molecular profiles) and homonyms (clone with different names but similar molecular profiles) were observed in the collections across all the countries. The comparison of genetic distances against a known reference clone for a particular country showed the presence of duplicates in these collections.

Horizontal axis: Number of SNPs used; Vertical axis: Minimum number of markers needed to differentiate two genotypes as unique or true-to-type.
Horizontal axis: Number of SNPs used; Vertical axis: Minimum number of markers needed to differentiate two genotypes as unique or true-to-type.

The results from the DNA fingerprinting research has shown that only 5% of the breeding lines and seed garden materials have been studied within the project, and there is a need for the study to be extended to the entire breeding collection in each of the countries. Wrongly labeled clones may be crossed with a wrongly labelled tree, doubling the chance of mislabeling.

Population structure showing the presence of admixtures among different clonal populations in breeders’ collection. Each colour represents one clonal population (e.g. Pound 7). If the block is represented with one solid color, then it represents one population. If the block is represented by the presence of different colours, then it represents the presence of admixtures within that population.
Population structure showing the presence of genetic mixes among different clonal populations in breeders’ collection. Each color represents one clonal population (e.g. Pound 7). If the block is represented with one solid color, then it represents one population. If the block is represented by the presence of different colors, then it represents the presence of genetic mixes within that population.

Additionally, the study identified that the genetic base of seed gardens is narrow, indicating the presence of only a few clones or genetic mixes and low use of improved breeding lines from the national programs. This may impact biotic and abiotic stresses. There is, therefore, a need to broaden the genetic base of the seed gardens in each of the countries using true-to-type improved cocoa genotypes.

WCF/ACI has provided a roadmap for confirming the identity of true-to-type cocoa clones in West and Central Africa, the region responsible for over 70% of world cocoa bean production and the functioning of chocolate industries worldwide. Going forward, all breeders’ collections should be cleaned up so true-to-type clones can be identified and used to establish seed gardens to support the entire cocoa value chain.



Comm_Dev_Savings_Group_1In rural cocoa-growing communities in West Africa, opportunities for women to build sustainable livelihoods can be scarce. Women in these communities are often illiterate and do not own land, and thus have little access to capital, loans, or other financial services. Women’s saving groups have given women access to capital and loans, enabling them to start small businesses or other income-generating activities. The key to the success of these groups is to bring the women together, where they can pool their resources, experiences, and strengths.

Comm_Dev_Savings_Group_2One such case is of women in Bolouguhé, Côte d’Ivoire, who had initially grouped themselves into four separate savings groups based on ethnic groups. WCF project staff suggested that the women create a single, larger savings group that could generate more funds. With additional financial resources, the women can better support their children’s school expenses, provide support to preschool classrooms, assist the School Management Committee, fund small business ventures, and save for emergencies.

In just one month, the women in Bolouguhé joined forces to create the Bolouguhé Savings Group, which now includes women of all ethnicities. They have set up a multi-ethnic executive board and have thus far mobilized 262,200 FCFA (about $450).


The women of Bolouguhé continue to find new ways to work together to better serve their communities. Their savings group is just one example of how women can accomplish more by working together.



Malaysia-based Saripah Binti Bakar is the most recent cocoa scientist to join the Cocoa Borlaug Fellowship and study at a U.S. institution to further her knowledge of cocoa. Saripah is a research officer with the Malaysian Cocoa Board (MCB) and focuses on insects.

As a Cocoa Borlaug Fellow, Saripah is working under the mentorship of Dr. Aijun Zhang, a research chemist in the Invasive Insect Biocontrol and Behavior Laboratory at the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) in Beltsville, Maryland.


More than 200 species of insects can be found on a single Malaysian cocoa plantation. Saripah’s has narrowed her research to focus on the cocoa pod borer (CPB), which is the most harmful pest to cocoa in Southeast Asian countries. In addition to her work with CPB, she studies insects that are beneficial to the cocoa ecosystem, such as the pollinator and cocoa black ants.

Saripah applied for the Fellowship because of her desire to learn more about cocoa insect pests. During the Fellowship, she performed plant extraction, chemical analysis, and biological assessment with two prominent insect pests in the United States, the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB), and the spotted wing drosophila (SWD).

By working with Dr. Zhang, Saripah is obtaining invaluable knowledge about the use of plant materials in controlling cocoa insect pests that can be adapted for MCB at the conclusion of her fellowship. Ultimately, Saripah hopes that bio pesticides derived from Malaysian plants will be a viable option for managing CPB in the future.

The Cocoa Borlaug Fellowship Program is a partnership between WCF and USDA-FAS with the goal of providing fellows with skills and knowledge to help their home countries become more competitive in producing and exporting cocoa and cocoa products.

For more information and application instructions for the USDA/WCF Cocoa Borlaug Fellowship visit:


Latin_AmIn September, dozens of scientists, government, industry, and non-governmental organization representatives gathered in El Salvador to discuss fine flavor cocoa, quality, and plant genetics. The first-of-its-kind event in San Salvador was hosted by WCF to promote collaboration among different actors in the cocoa sector in Latin America.

WCF held its 2nd Annual Seminar on Cocoa in the Americas in San Salvador, with opening remarks by Orestes Fredesman Ortez Andrade, Minister of Agriculture and Farming of El Salvador. Discussions focused on market outlook, opportunities for further developing this segment of this market, the latest research, and the role of capacity building.

A presentation on Q standards in the coffee sector gained significant interest from the audience and resulted in a discussion on the possibility of adapting Q standards for the cocoa sector.

In conjunction with the Seminar, WCF separately hosted the Americas Cacao Breeders’ Working Group 2nd Annual Meeting. The first day focused on climate change and its potential impacts on cacao. Presentations on industry perspectives as well as breeding for drought resistance spoke to the challenges that lie ahead and what scientists could do to address them.

The second day focused on scientific protocols for diseases and the complexity of pathogens. Screening methodologies for black pod, frosty pod, and witches broom (three diseases affecting cacao in Latin America) were of particular interest to the audience as these pathogens are constantly forming new resistances to plant inoculations.

Latin_Am_2Both meetings attracted strong attendance and inspired productive discussions among participants, hopefully leading to stronger, more united collaboration in the Latin American cocoa sector.

WCF is thankful to its sponsors, Catholic Relief Services, CasaLuker, Lutheran World Relief, FairTrade America, and CLUSA El Salvador, for helping enable the opportunity to convene a wide audience to discuss the topic at hand.

For the program and presentations from the meetings, visit


For additional WCF research resources, visit:






October 1-3: Le Conseil du Café-Cacao National Cocoa & Chocolate Day Celebrations,
Yamoussoukro, Côte d’Ivoire


October 26-27: Partnership Meeting & Cocoa Sustainability Trade Fair,
Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire


Paul Macek, Senior Program Director, West Africa

  • October 28 – November 8: Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire

Virginia Sopyla, Associate Director, South East Asia, Latin America and Research

  • October 31 – November 24: Jakarta, Indonesia

Ethan Budiansky, Deputy Director, WCF Cocoa Livelihoods Program

  • November 1-14: Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire

Bill Guyton, President 

  • November 15-17: Seattle, Washington


WCF would like to extend a warm welcome to our new interns Jamila Abdulkadir (Communications – DC office), Sophia Yang (Finance –DC Office), Nana Kwame Ankumah (CLP – GH Office), Joana Serwaah Danquah (CLP – GH Office), Thelma Aseye Tsotorvor (CocoaAction – GH Office) and Kouassi Fabrice (Admin –CDI Office).

WCF extends its thanks and best wishes to Elizabeth Kiewisch (Gender Specialist) on her future endeavors.