Traveling to cocoa growing communities around the world has long been an important part of my job, and though it involves a lot of time in airplanes throughout the year, there’s just no substitute for seeing our projects in person and meeting the people involved.
On Sunday, November 18, I met with the chief and other leaders of Petit Bondoukou, one of the first communities Vision for Change began working with in 2010, just after we signed our MoU with the Ivorian Ministry of Agriculture. In the two years since, the people of Petit Bondoukou have worked with us to establish the first cocoa development center in Côte d’Ivoire, a training hub and set of demonstration plots that show farmers the dramatic effects grafting, good agricultural practices and fertilizer can have on their farms.
At the CDC, seeing is truly believing. This demonstration is now maturing into a powerful example of the kind of change we hope to see across the country. Replanting the trees in the demonstrations plots would have taken several years to allow the trees to properly mature, and with most of the trees here over 30 years old and not producing enough cocoa for the farmer to make a decent living, time is of the essence.
Although we’ve grafted many trees now in our demonstration plots, some varieties of clonal planting material are starting to show some real results. For example, one tree in our demonstration plot was 36 years old and not producing much cocoa anymore – only .2 kg per year. After we grafted it with new and improved planting material in 2010, however, the tree now produces about 2 kg per year, which means that if every tree on that hectare had been grafted, the total yield would have gone from .2 tonnes per hectare to nearly 2 tonnes per hectare!
We also had a chance to visit with one of the first Cocoa Village Center operators (known locally as “Cocoa Doctors”), Joel Kouadio. Joel is just beginning his journey as a local entrepreneur, and after having been trained by the CDC staff, he will begin to build a business around offering grafting and other agricultural services to the farmers in his area, in addition to selling farm implements and inputs like pesticides and fertilizer. As these CVC are the essential element in Vision for Change, the direct connections to farmers through which we’ll begin to support them with the fertilizer, training and planting material they need to triple their yields.
At the end of a long, hot and dusty day, I was tired, but also encouraged now that our Vision for Change is starting to show some concrete results. I can’t wait to come back to see how things will evolve over the next few years, especially as the local farmer-entrepreneurs begin to build a more vibrant rural sector. It’s truly a fascinating time to be working in the cocoa industry!
For more pictures of our visit to Petit Bondoukou, check out the gallery below.
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