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November 19, 2008

First ever Africa-wide cocoa farming plan finalised

By Ernest Kofi Adu Kumasi

The first-ever sustainable cocoa-farming plan, which has been designed to help cocoa farmers increase their income, by growing trees that are of higher quality, more resistant to disease and drought, and consume fewer natural resources, has been finalised for Africa.

At a symposium held under the theme “Theobroma Cacao: The Tree of Change” in Kumasi, Ghana recently, as many as 250 delegates from 14 West and Central Africa countries, along with cocoa industry leaders, reached the consensus plan.

It has the support of President John Agyekum Kufuor, as well as the Finance, Agriculture and Commerce ministers, scientists and farmers from these nations. According to a press release, issued by Mars Incorporated of South Africa, the participants described the plan as the first inter-governmental pledge of its kind, which is of enormous significance to the more than two million cocoa farmers in Africa, where 70% of the world’s cocoa is grown.

“The need to transform and modernise our agriculture practices has never been greater,” President Kufuor is reported to have stated, and added, “I look forward to leading the effort to implement the new consensus plan, one which helps our farmers not only to survive, but flourish under the challenging economic situation we face currently. It is my hope that the sustainable cocoa plan, will serve as a model for other commodities farmers in Ghana and throughout Africa.”

According to the release, Mars Incorporated sponsored the symposium, which was hosted by the Government of Ghana, in collaboration with the Cocoa Producers Alliance (COPAL), and the governments of Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Liberia and Togo. The release continued that at previous meetings, the event brought to center stage the role of science towards a sustainable regional and world cocoa economy, which includes sustainable cocoa production, socio-economic development through more profitable incomes for farmers, and ensured that the right environmental foundation remained in place to meet tomorrow’s demand.

“The consensus plan will have a real impact on the day-to-day lives of cocoa farmers throughout Africa,” Prof. G. Y. Gyan-Baffour, Ghana’s Deputy Minister of Finance, reportedly said. “The measures and infrastructure we have committed, should make it possible for farmers to increase their cocoa production in the near future, and will ensure that cocoa can be farmed from these lands for generations to come. The potential benefit to cocoa farmers is great, and will help strengthen families and communities throughout the region,” he added.

The release indicated that the 30-year vision for the cocoa industry, identifies specific steps necessary to achieve its goals, including creating avenues for the effective transfer of scientific information, technology and funding. It also seeks to establish systems that make advances in cocoa science easily adaptable at the farmer’s level, provide information channels that would reach farmers, with pertinent updates on current market prices, and urged government collaboration to ensure farmers get a greater portion of the price for cacao, among others.

It is expected that the projected outcomes from implementing the new consensus plan would thrive rural communities, based on increased entrepreneurial activities, building on improved infrastructure, trade, nutrition/health and education. It would also give recognition to African producers, by chocolate manufacturers and consumers, as consistently producing high quality cocoa and undertake the transformation of cocoa farming, from subsistence to entrepreneurial models, leading to diversification within the agriculture value chains and beyond.

“Mars is proud of our long history as the global leader in cocoa research, and the contribution we continue to make to advancing cocoa science,” said Howard-Yana Shapiro, Global Plant Scientist, Mars Incorporated. “For the first time, we have built consensus among the key stakeholders that cocoa farming in Africa must move to a more sustainable model. For decades, Mars has been at the forefront of forging unique public-private partnerships that create new social, economic and environmental opportunities, for the millions of farmers throughout the tropics, who depend on cocoa for their livelihood. This is a quantum leap forward in working towards poverty elimination, renewing the fabric of the rural sector, and stabilising the lives of West African cocoa farmers,” he concluded.

Ghanaian Chronicle

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