Barry Callebaut breaks ground at its first Center of Cocoa Excellence in West Africa

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Barry Callebaut, the world’s leading manufacturer of high-quality cocoa and chocolate products,  announced it is establishing a CHF 1 million (EUR 833,000 / USD 1.05 million) Center of Cocoa Excellence to promote advanced agricultural techniques in Côte d’Ivoire, the world’s largest cocoa producing country. The Center will include training facilities for farmers and a 30-hectare “showcase farm” to demonstrate state-of-the-art intercropping techniques and other yield enhancement practices such as grafting to rejuvenate aging cocoa farms and double farm productivity.

The Center of Cocoa Excellence will be situated in Pacobo in the Department of Tiassalé in the south-central cocoa growing area of Côte d’Ivoire. A cornerstone of Barry Callebaut’s “Cocoa Horizons” global sustainability initiative, the Center is scheduled to be operational from October 2012.

The “showcase farm” will comprise about 30 hectares, ten of which will be planted this year starting in June. Barry Callebaut will use the farm to test different approaches for growing cocoa with other crops. The company is building on its prior experience with intercropping of compatible plants to improve productivity and biodiversity. Since 2010 Barry Callebaut has supported a local project in the region to demonstrate optimal methods of intercropping cocoa, banana and rubber with the goal of improving yields per hectare.

Some of the crops that will be planted alongside cocoa trees on the “showcase farm” include: plantain, coconut, mango, pineapple, beans and maize, as well as rubber and others. Shade trees will also be planted.

“This effort reflects the importance of promoting biodiversity – planting other food crops and shade trees in addition to cocoa – on smallholder farms,” said Anke Massart, Project Leader Cocoa Horizons in Côte d’Ivoire. “An abundant variety of plants and trees simulates the natural diversity found in the rainforest and results in a healthy ecosystem. This, in turn, means more productive cocoa trees.”

In addition to the environmental benefits, planting other food crops and trees together with cocoa also directly benefits farmers and their families by providing variety to the family diet as well as creating additional sources of income to complement the earnings from cocoa.

Barry Callebaut’s Center of Cocoa Excellence as well as five planned Farmer Academies will be located in important cocoa-growing regions of Ivory Coast as part of the company’s Cocoa Horizons initiative. Cocoa Horizons defines a portfolio of yield enhancement techniques aimed at increasing the yields per hectare and quality of cocoa grown by smallholder farmers. These  innovative approaches are essential to ensure future supplies of quality cocoa and improved livelihoods for farmers and their families.

In addition to the “showcase farm,” the Center of Cocoa Excellence will also include a building with a classroom, nurseries of cocoa and shade trees as well as fermentation and drying facilities. From October, the Center at Pacobo will offer training to selected farmers from about 20 cooperatives currently participating in BC’s sustainability and certification activities.

Source: Barry Callebaut