Cocoa rehabilitation in Cote d’Ivoire: African agronomists trained on cocoa rehabilitation in Indonesia – Part 2

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As Mars Chocolate launches and grows its innovative Vision for Change cocoa sustainability program, we’re implementing new training programs to help African agronomists develop the necessary skills and knowledge for cocoa rehabilitation.

A team of Mars Chocolate technicians and I recently began training 13 Ivorian agronomists at Mars Cocoa Development Centers in Sulawesi, Indonesia, where we are developing farming practices to help address the issues facing West African cocoa farms. Through training, Mars Chocolate is transferring new techniques and technologies from Indonesia to Africa, where the need is the greatest.

Thirteen Ivorian agronomists were invited for the “Training of Trainers” (TOT) program, including nine agronomists from The World Agroforestry Centre and two technical specialists from ANADER (national extension service) and CNRA (national agricultural research institute) for training on all aspects of cocoa rehabilitation.

The month-long training began with a trip from Makassar to the training sites in Sulawesi’s main cocoa growing area.  There, a delegation, which included the mayor of Palopo, performed the formal opening ceremony for the training and pledged the support of the local government to promote the well-being of African cocoa farmers.

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During the training seminars, participants learned about a variety of successful cocoa rehabilitation techniques based on three key fundamentals – good planting material, soil fertility management and solid agriculture practices.  Specifically, trainees discussed the management of nurseries and cloning gardens, various grafting techniques, and pre and post grafting management of cocoa trees.

This “Training of Trainers” initiative demanded significant effort, not only from Mars Chocolates’ staff to develop the training manuals and sessions but also from local partners who provided vital logistical support including transportation, accommodations, food and real-time translation by French language students.

The engagement and commitment of the African team was inspirational. At the time of the training, the situation in Cote d’Ivoire was difficult and there were concerns about the safety and security of family and friends back home. Nevertheless, the whole team unanimously voted to continue training, and the enthusiasm of the African team was very high, especially after seeing the high cocoa productivity results in several Indonesian cocoa farms.

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At the end of training, the African team toured Mars Chocolate. Participants were given final exams to test their theoretical and practical skills. The bar for this exam was high, but to the great joy and pride of all, every candidate passed. Participants also received a well-deserved trip to “Tana Toraja,” a spectacularly beautiful and interesting region in the highlands of Sulawesi.

During the final workshop, a “cocoa calendar” was put together to map out various interventions that should be introduced to Africa, along with discussion about how to most effectively implement them.

During closing ceremonies, the vice mayor of East Luwu honored the team. Visiting professors from University Hasanuddin also lectured on soil management and soil fertility issues, and the head master of a vocational school explained the value of the ‘cocoa curriculum.’

This curriculum, developed with Mars Chocolate, enables young students to assist their parents in rehabilitating their old farms, but more importantly, to develop careers as professional farmers and technologists in the agricultural extension services.

With new skills and knowledge, our hope is that the newly trained African farmers can build and sustain a cocoa rehabilitation network. In addition we hope African cocoa farms can be more productive and provide an attractive quality of life for millions of farmers in the future.

 

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