The following blog post is from Hussin Purung, Mars Cocoa Sustainability Field Manager in Indonesia.
The West African cocoa industry is at a crossroads. Two million cocoa farmers are cultivating six million hectares of cocoa – most of which is on aging, declining farm land. With no new land available for new farms, the African cocoa industry must rehabilitate current cocoa farms and increase productivity to sustain the cocoa supply and provide an attractive quality of life for millions of farmers. Growing more cocoa on less land is the first, most critical step to empower African cocoa farmers to provide better livelihoods for their families and invest in the future of their farms and communities.
This idea is at the heart of Mars Chocolate’s largest cocoa sustainability program: Vision for Change. Vision for Change, which Mars Chocolate is implementing in Cote d’Ivoire, utilizes a simple, affordable and high impact method of revitalizing existing cocoa plantations through a network of Cocoa Development Centers (CDC) and Cocoa Village Clinics (CVC).
Mars Chocolate has created the CDC/CVC network to effectively teach, promote and implement rehabilitation techniques that can help smaller farmers. These techniques are based on three key pillars:
- rehabilitation of old and aging farms with good planting material
- soil fertility management
- solid agricultural practices including pest and disease control
The CDC and CVC approach, first implemented in Indonesia, has proven highly successful and been adopted by projects funded by the World Bank, IFAD, Swiss Contact, USAID and other development agencies.
As the first step in West Africa, Ivorian cocoa institutes and farm service organizations must build enough capacity to successfully implement core cocoa farm rehabilitation interventions. That work started last March by training thirteen Ivorian agronomists who were invited to participate with me and others in the cocoa industry for a Training of Trainers program at CDCs in Sulawesi, Indonesia – a great example of how Mars Chocolate partners with government and national institutions to promote sustainable initiatives.
During the month-long training, Ivorian agronomists spoke with a variety of professionals from Mars Chocolate, others in the cocoa industry, and educators and Indonesian government officials, specifically those involved with the National Extension Service. Local professors lectured on soil management and fertility issues as promoted in the CDC/CVC concept. Additionally, the headmaster of a vocational school explained the value of the “cocoa curriculum” that Mars Chocolate helped to develop. That program enables young students to help their parents revitalize their farms and, just as importantly, to develop careers as farmers and technologists in the agricultural extension services.
During the final workshop, participants discussed the best ways to bring their newfound knowledge to Cote d’Ivoire and were extremely eager to do so. They developed a cocoa calendar to map out various rehabilitation tools and technologies that should be introduced in Africa.
As the project coordinator, I think the Training of Trainers program for the cocoa team from Ivory Coast was a highly successful initiative and a tremendous experience for everyone involved.