inside this edition…
It is an honor and privilege to be selected as the new President of WCF.
I’ve known about the work of WCF for many years. In the international development community, the cocoa industry is viewed as a global leader in developing a strategic focus on sustainability. And WCF is widely recognized as a model organization for driving public-private partnerships for sustainable agriculture.
What I didn’t know about WCF – and what I’ve learned over the past few weeks as I have met many of you – is how passionate and committed everyone is about the cocoa sector.
As you would expect, the selection process for the new President was tough and intense. At the end of the final interview, I came away hugely impressed by the laser focus of the WCF Board on promoting a sustainable cocoa economy and improving the lives of cocoa farmers. I had the exact same sense when I spoke to WCF Members and other partners at the ICCO World Cocoa Conference in May, and the CHOCOVISION conference in June. The cocoa sector is clearly a remarkable “family” – and I promise to bring the same level of passion and commitment as the new President.
I have worked in agriculture and rural development for the past thirty-five years, including leading the World Bank’s programs in agriculture and environment in Africa, and forestry in China. I was attracted to WCF because I see an unprecedented opportunity for public and private collaboration to improve the livelihoods of millions of poor cocoa farmers.
I am convinced that CocoaAction provides an extraordinary platform to achieve this objective. As we begin to map out the next phase of CocoaAction, I see three priorities where we can deepen our impact.
First, we need to scale up our coverage and demonstrate results. We are currently reaching about 300,000 farmers in the start-up phase, less than 5% of total producers – what will it take to embrace a more ambitious goal and reach one million farmers? The WCF Team is preparing a roadmap on how to scale up and out, and we look forward to your feedback and engagement on next steps.
Second, we need to tackle a broad set of issues to ensure sustainable livelihoods for cocoa farmers. Productivity investments are critical to boost yields and farmer income – but this alone will not be enough to raise cocoa farmers above the poverty line. I see an important role for WCF to work with Governments and other partners to ensure an effective agriculture policy framework and business environment that benefits farmers, including support for farmer organizations, land tenure reform, sustainable provision of agricultural inputs and services, and improved trade and logistics infrastructure.
Third, we need to build strong partnerships with all stakeholders in the supply chain. As the African proverb notes, “‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” I am extremely excited about the scope for deepening collaboration of industry with origin Governments, CSO partners, international organizations like ICCO and ICI, and other stakeholders.
I feel very fortunate to be taking the helm of such an effective organization, with talented staff, committed Members, and a visionary Board. I am particularly grateful for the earlier leadership of Bill Guyton, who grew WCF to more than 100 companies during his 15-year tenure, and to Tim McCoy, for his stewardship as Acting President over the past six months.
As we begin the next phase of the WCF journey, I count on your ideas, feedback, and passion. I look forward to reaching out to you over the next few months, and listening and learning — please contact me anytime. Together we will make a difference and accelerate sustainability and poverty reduction in the cocoa sector.
THE FUTURE OF COCOA SUSTAINABILITY
In the global effort to develop new and improved varieties of cocoa that will meet the needs of farmers and the chocolate industry, scientists must access and exchange cocoa genetic resources for inclusion in breeding programs, research, and long-term conservation. The CocoaAction strategic goal of improving productivity through better access to quality planting material will entail the identification, exchange and multi-local validation of potentially promising planting material as well as molecular profiling of all cocoa accessions in germplasm collections in the sub-region. This is where cocoa genebanks and quarantine centers play important roles and can support CocoaAction’s goals.
Moving any plant material between different cocoa growing areas risks transferring the pests and diseases associated with it. This is why the International Cocoa Quarantine Centre at the University of Reading, UK (ICQC,R) is working closely with the two international genebanks at CATIE (Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza, Costa Rica) and ICG,T (International Cocoa Genebank, Trinidad) managed by Cocoa Research Centre, University of the West Indies) to provide a safe way to move germplasm between genebanks and research institutes in cocoa producing countries. The CocoaAction CSSV program (more detail in next article) intends to provide CSSV resistant planting materials to national institutions in West Africa. For safety reasons, any resistant genotypes identified in national and international collections will be introduced into ICQC for screening and validation.
The quarantine process currently involves a two-year screening process in a non-cocoa growing country to minimize the risk of transmitting viruses (particularly Cocoa Swollen Shoot Virus), which can remain undetectable in plants for considerable periods of time. Research is underway on new methods to screen for viruses and other pathogens that will further improve the robustness of the system. These facilities were relocated and renewed in 2015 though the generosity of the University of Reading, and are now more secure and energy efficient. The CocoaAction CSSV program is collaborating with University of Reading to develop a robust screening protocol for the cocoa swollen shoot virus.
ICQC, R, CATIE, and ICG,T are at the heart of the CacaoNet Global Strategy for the Conservation and Use of Cacao Genetic Resources (www.cacaonet.org) and have been in operation for many years, thanks to the support of their hosting institutes and financial support provided by the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Cocoa Research Association (thanks to support from Mars, Mondelēz, and ICE Futures Europe), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and WCF.
COCOA SWOLLEN SHOOT VIRUS DISEASE:
A HOLISTIC APPROACH TO CONTROL THE DISEASE
IN WEST AFRICA
The Cacao Swollen Shoot Virus Disease (CSSVD) is one of the most destructive cocoa diseases. Since the disease was reported in Ghana in 1936, it has caused devastating losses, resulting in the cutting out of nearly 200 million cocoa trees. Despite ambitious eradication efforts, the disease has not been effectively contained. An estimated 15% of global cocoa production is wiped out annually by CSSVD (ICCO, 2009), posing a serious economic threat in the affected countries. As part of its efforts to ensure cocoa sustainability in Africa, the cocoa industry launched a CSSV program in West Africa in 2015 through WCF and the CocoaAction strategy. Through its holistic approach, the CocoaAction CSSV program intends to make available by 2020 an integrated and cost-effective management strategy against CSSVD in West Africa.
CSSVD is spread by various species of mealybugs through contaminated materials, resulting in a rapid mortality of established trees. Severe forms of the disease lead to tree death within 3 to 4 years, which has caused a significant reduction in cocoa production in Ghana and Togo, and for nearly a decade in Côte d’Ivoire, the largest cocoa producer. The only current known method of CSSVD eradication is the complete destruction of infected and surrounding trees. Thus, efforts are needed for continuous sensitization of farmers and other stakeholders to the CSSVD threat.
The CocoaAction CSSV program is developing tools and techniques to effectively control the disease at a regional level, including a robust screening protocol for CSSVD resistance, detection methods, a serum-based diagnostic kit, and protection methods against mealybugs. In addition to developing tools and techniques to control CSSVD, the CSSV program promotes a holistic approach focusing on: 1) early detection of the disease, 2) selection of resistant planting material, 3) protection against transmitting mealybugs, and 4) eradication of disease hot spots with strengthened regional collaboration. The figure illustrates the 4-pillar control strategy.
FROM KOTA KINABALU TO CALIFORNIA:
SHARING KNOWLEDGE ON COCOA PESTS & DISEASE
Albert Ling Sheng Chang serves as a research officer with the Malaysia Cocoa Board (MCB) working for its Upstream Technology Division headquartered in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. His research focuses on insect pest management for the cocoa pod borer (CPB), one of the most prevalent insect pests both in Malaysia and throughout the Southeast Asia region. He recently completed a Cocoa Borlaug Fellowship, a program supported by WCF and the United States Department of Agriculture/Foreign Agriculture Service.
Albert’s Fellowship took place at the University of California, Davis, under the mentorship of Dr. Neil McRoberts. Albert explored alternative and environmentally friendly methods of managing cocoa pests and diseases. Utilizing Generalized Linear Models (GLM) to analyze over-dispersed count data for CPB eggs found on pods. He also learned Bayesian analysis, an examination used to evaluate disease prediction systems. The method examines the probability of disease occurrences before and after using the predictor.
Having returned to Malaysia, Albert now plans to share what he learned with his colleagues and management at the Malaysian Cocoa Board. He is confident that the skills he acquired will reduce the prevalence of CPB and black pod in Southeast Asia and other regions.
For additional WCF research resources, visit:
COCOA INDUSTRY EVENTS
15 – 16: ECA European Cocoa Forum, Zagreb, Croatia
27: ICCO Cocoa Market Outlook Conference, London, UK
26 – 27: World Cocoa Foundation Partnership Meeting & Cocoa Sustainability Trade Fair, Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire
See more cocoa industry events here.
STAFF & MEMBER UPDATES
WCF is thrilled to welcome Ezaki Glico as its newest member.
WCF warmly welcomes Richard Scobey as its new President. WCF also welcomes Amy Mitsumori, Communications & Outreach Intern, and Sara Miller, South East Asia and Latin America Intern in the DC office, and Jean Jacques Kouame, Agro-Economist Intern for CLP in the Abidjan office. WCF extends its thanks and best wishes to departing Executive Assistant, Adam Yefet, and Communications & Outreach Intern, Amanda Ziegler.