Barry Callebaut, the world’s leading manufacturer of high-quality cocoa and chocolate products, has inaugurated its new Cocoa Center of Excellence to promote advanced agricultural techniques in Côte d’Ivoire, the world’s largest cocoa producing country. To date Barry Callebaut has invested approximately CHF 1 million (EUR 800,000 / USD 1.1 million) in the Center which includes training facilities for farmers and a 30-hectare “showcase farm” to demonstrate state-of-the-art intercropping techniques and yield enhancement practices to increase farm productivity.
Inauguration of the first Cocoa Center of Excellence on July 5, 2013
More than 300 people attended the ceremonies on July 5, 2013 in Pacobo to inaugurate the Cocoa Center of Excellence. The event was organized by Barry Callebaut’s subsidiary in Côte d’Ivoire, Société Africaine de Cacao (SACO). Guests included His Excellency Bandama Maurice, Minister of Culture and Francophonie, representatives from national ministries in Côte d’Ivoire; representatives from the governments of Belgium, Switzerland and the United States; other national and local government officials and leaders; farmers and managers from cocoa cooperatives in the region; and community members.
“We appreciate and commend the efforts of Barry Callebaut to contribute to ensuring the sustainability of the cocoa sector in Côte d’Ivoire through the establishment of this new Cocoa Center of Excellence which will serve as a valuable source of knowledge and an important training facility for thousands of cocoa farmers and farmer organizations in the region,” said Kouassi Bredoumi Soumaîla Traoré, General Director of Food Security, representing the Minister of Agriculture of Cote d’Ivoire.
Advanced farmer training programs
The new Cocoa Center of Excellence is located in Pacobo in the Department of Tiassalé in the south-central cocoa growing area of Côte d’Ivoire. It comprises both field and classroom training facilities, separate nurseries to produce cocoa plants and shade trees, as well as fermentation and drying facilities to demonstrate proper post-harvest management practices.
Barry Callebaut will begin training programs for farmer trainers as well as managers and administrators from cooperatives and other farmer organizations in July 2013. The cocoa training curriculum includes modules on Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), post-harvest management techniques, crop diversification, composting, farm rehabilitation, and grafting as well as basic business skills and social issues such as labor practices, child protection and other education and health topics. Barry Callebaut initially plans to train about 300 trainers and managers per year at the Cocoa Center of Excellence.
“The farmers in the surrounding communities have already shown great interest in the Center and our ‘showcase farm’ where we are demonstrating crop diversification approaches that complement cocoa production, ensure food security and generate additional sources of income for families,” said Anke Massart, Project Leader Cocoa Horizons in Côte d’Ivoire. “At Barry Callebaut, we see a great opportunity for accelerating the adoption of sustainable practices by training a new generation of trainers in these advanced techniques, and continuing to coach and support them as they share the knowledge with farmers in their home communities and regions.”
The “showcase farm” is also being used to demonstrate the appropriate use of shade trees to protect young cocoa plants on smallholder farms. In the past year, sections of the farm have been planted to test approaches for growing cocoa with other crops including plantain, coconut, mango, pineapple, beans and maize, as well as rubber.
Barry Callebaut 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.
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.
The Center will be affiliated with other Barry Callebaut training facilities to be constructed in Côte d’Ivoire in the next 12 months. These facilities, called Barry Callebaut Farmer Academies, will be located in rural communities to serve as training centers or hubs for farmers in more remote communities. The Farmer Academies will offer training and support services to reinforce concepts communicated in Farmer Field Schools and to promote the adoption of sustainable agricultural practices and advanced yield techniques, such as grafting, to improve farm productivity.
A cornerstone of the global Cocoa Horizons sustainability initiative
The new Cocoa Center of Excellence is a cornerstone of Barry Callebaut’s global Cocoa Horizons sustainability initiative launched in March 2012. Through Cocoa Horizons programs and activities, Barry Callebaut aims to help build and extend the capacities of farmers, farmer trainers and farmer organizations by offering agricultural trainings to improve cocoa quality and further boost crop yields per hectare, technical consultations and farm management and business support services to tens of thousands of smallholders in key cocoa producing regions in the world. Integrated with the training on farmer practices are targeted activities to address critical education and health issues in cocoa farming communities.