U.S. Ambassador to Cote d’Ivoire Philip Carter III paid a special visit to our local cocoa partners on the ground in Petit Bondoukou. A team of us from Mars Chocolate joined Mr. Carter, his wife and the 3rd Secretary of the Embassy on the visit last week to discuss ways farmers can use enhanced technology to improve quality cocoa production. Two key government officials – Mr. Gonbagui Georges, the Governor of Soubre, and Mr. Kouadio Arnaud, the Sous-Prefet of Oupoyo – also participated in the visit.
After being introduced by the village authorities and exchanging warm welcomes with the elders of the village, the Ambassador and his team visited an old cocoa farm that has been transformed by improved pre and post cocoa harvest operations. We discussed some of the major challenges involved in cocoa production – including aging orchards, poor planting materials, pests and diseases, pressure and depleted soil.
Ambassador Carter also visited a new Cocoa Development Center (CDC) and got an inside look at different regeneration technologies that are improving cocoa production, especially grafting. Grafting is a technology that is just now being applied to cocoa for the first time, and it can make a tremendous difference in harvesting and the future of high quality cocoa.
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We also had the opportunity to talk with Mrs. Carter about the role of the community, education and leadership that women can take to help create vibrant lives for villagers through cocoa production. The Ambassador and Mrs. Carter exchanged gifts with the farmers, presenting books and soccer balls to local school children.
Much has changed in Petit Bondoukou after just one year of technology implementation. The village has certified farms and local farmers have shown a strong willingness to take a lead in owning the project.
During the trip, Ambassador Carter officially inaugurated the CDC office of Petit Bondoukou and he and Governor Georges each planted a cocoa tree of the newest variety developed by CNRA, the national research institute. The Ambassador and his wife hope to return to Petit Bondoukou again next year or so to see the continued change from the CDC.