In June I had a wonderful opportunity to see the Success Alliance program in action on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines. The program is run by ACDI/VOCA with the support of USAID and the World Cocoa Foundation, of which Mars is a member. Broadly, Success Alliance works to enable farmers to create successful businesses around cocoa production, and this can include teaching pest management and good agricultural practices as well as providing planting material and supporting post-harvest processing, among other things. One of the most powerful things about Success Alliance, however, is that so many local and international groups are able to work effectively together to build a stronger, more sustainable cocoa industry. The Cocoa Foundation of the Philippines and Golden Sunset Farms are both very active local participants near the city of Davao.
Travelling with our resident cocoa expert, Peter Van Grinsven, I was able to see that cocoa, properly supported, has a lot of potential in the Philippines. Cocoa can supplement very prominent existing crops like coconut and banana, and because of the growing demand for cocoa on the international market, farmers are increasingly able to find a competitive price for their crops. The local newspaper’s overview is here.
Just as Peter has described our work in Vietnam, he has worked in the Philippines to focus on quality planting material, integrated pest management, and modern post-harvest processes to improve quality. As we toured around the hills bordering the city of Davao, we saw some of these efforts take root as export companies and local groups have started to build an infrastructure to support farmers with the materials they need (like clonal seedlings and training) as well as improved services to process and export the dried and fermented beans.
Here’s a photo tour of our trip:
I also took a (shaky!) video of Peter explaining how a clonal trial works as well as a cocoa expert from Golden Sunset Farms explaining why fermentation is important. We’re very encouraged by the potential and progress in the Philippines, but we know that much more has to be done in the future to ensure that cocoa can be a sustainable livelihood for millions of farmers in Africa, Asia and Latin America.