Africa Fairtrade Convention

Performers at the Africa Fairtrade Convention

Efforts to increase collaboration between cocoa producers, international traders, partner organizations and policy makers took a major step forward during the second annual Africa Fairtrade Conventionin Accra, Ghana on November 23rd through 26th.  The convention, which has grown substantially in just a year under the leadership of Fairtrade Africa Chairman Yorokamu Abainenamar and Executive Director Michael Nkonu, provided an opportunity to hear from those involved in cocoa farming and production and to exchange ideas on ways to promote cocoa certification.

As the Cocoa Sustainability Director for Certification, Mars Chocolate, I was invited to participate in a lively panel discussion with a variety of partner organizations, including Fairtrade International CEO Rob Cameron. The panel, “equal trade partnerships – Sustainable production, sustainable businesses, sustainable livelihoods,” featured discussion on ways we can increase scale of fair-trade cocoa certification and develop new ways to enable farmers to produce higher quality, more productive and profitable crops.

Certification is one of the best tools the industry has to reach farmers around the world to ensure they have the material support and organization necessary to be successful.  Mars Chocolate has set a bold and ambitious goal to reach 100 percent cocoa certification by 2020 with its partners Rainforest Alliance, UTZ Certified and Fairtrade. By 2012, Mars will be the largest purchaser of certified cocoa.

One of the major benefits of certification is that it can help improve cocoa quality and yield, and provide the resources to enhance cocoa farming techniques and technology.  There is a rule of thumb that currently 70 percent of the cocoa in Africa comes from 30 percent of the trees, so it’s important to improve planting material, replenish soil nutrients, and use modern farming techniques so that all cocoa trees can be high performing.

Africa Fairtrade Convention performers

During the Africa Fairtrade Convention panel discussion, we talked about ways to increase cocoa certification from 100,000 tons to 2 millions tons over the next ten years.  We heard from local farmers on the ground in places like Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Uganda, as well as from other partnering organizations about how we might encourage more farm level impact in cocoa certification, and thereby attract even greater commitments from industry. We also discussed some of the current challenges relating to cost and how to be flexible and reach the 80 percent of cocoa farmers who operate outside of cooperatives. Overall the concept of ‘return on investment’ emerged: we must maximize the return in terms of farm level impact, and minimize the investment required, in order to move from niche to mainstream.

For more information, visit the Africa Fairtrade Convention.

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