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  • Celebrating and rewarding excellence in producing high-quality cocoa: The 2017 International Cocoa Award winners

Celebrating and rewarding excellence in producing high-quality cocoa: The 2017 International Cocoa Award winners

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Cacao pods lie on the ground after harvesting. Photo by J. Raneri/Bioversity International
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Cacao pods lie on the ground after harvesting. Photo by J. Raneri/Bioversity International

As the only event in the world celebrating the work of producers and the richness of expression of cocoa, a unique cocoa initiative is helping to further mutual awareness and reinforce collaborations between producers and chocolate makers.

Every two years, the Cocoa of Excellence Programme spearheaded by Bioversity International and Event International recognizes the quality, flavor and diversity of cocoas according to their origin, with the participation of countries that can directly present the fruits of their labors to chocolate makers and the press.

The Cocoa of Excellence Programme is the entry point for the International Cocoa Awards (ICA). It aims to increase awareness and promote education along the cocoa supply chain on the opportunity to produce high quality cocoa and preserve flavors resulting from genetic diversity, terroir and know-how of the farmers who prepare cocoa.

Cacao diversity is also vital for production, as it provides not only different flavors, but also resistance to pests and disease outbreaks, and resilience in changing climatic conditions. Providing opportunities and incentives for safeguarding diversity to farmers and national organizations ensures that a portfolio of options remain available for future needs.

Celebrating the shortlisted entrants at the 2017 International Cocoa Awards at the Salon du Chocolat. Photo by Bioversity International

Following the selection and evaluation of 166 cocoa samples submitted from 40 countries, the wait was finally over on Oct. 30, 2017, for the 50 entrants shortlisted for the 2017 Edition of the ICA. The 18 ICA winners were celebrated at the Salon du Chocolat in Paris, shining an international spotlight on the work of cocoa farmers and cocoa diversity around the world.

“It is the highest reward for the Salon du Chocolat to be with Bioversity International at the origin of this unique program that gathered so many great and indisputable international experts in the world of cacao. Our initial wish was to create a direct link between chocolate makers and producers for reciprocal enrichment, in the qualitative aspects of chocolate and cocoa with all the benefits they entail,” said Francois Jeantet, Creator of the Salon du Chocolat.

“Today our wishes are fulfilled. A big thank you to all the team and all those that participate with passion,” he added.

“The program facilitates communication and linkages between the producers of this wonderful crop that is cocoa that delights the bean buyers and chocolate makers. This communication needs to be standardized so that all the actors along the value chain understand each other, from the farmers to the chocolate makers,” explained Brigitte Laliberté, Expert on Cacao Genetic Resources at Bioversity International.

“We are coordinating an effort on the development of international standards for the assessment of cocoa quality and flavor, for which we convened a consultation at the Salon just this morning,” Laliberté continued. “The meeting led to some very exciting group decisions and innovations in this important area.”

The Cocoa of Excellence Programme is the entry point for the International Cocoa Awards.

After a physical quality evaluation, the beans were carefully processed into liquor and untempered chocolate for blind sensory evaluation by a panel of international experts who are part of the Cocoa of Excellence Technical Committee.

Following the evaluation, the best 50 samples were selected and processed into tempered and molded chocolate (following the same recipe of 66 percent cocoa) for sensory evaluation by a broader panel of 41 chocolate professionals.

“Never before has there been such an assemblage of superb cocoas as we have had expressed as chocolates in these 2017 Edition of Cocoa of Excellence. The flavor evaluation has been both daunting as well as exhilarating. There is more outstanding flavor and diversity from more countries than ever before. The Technical Committee and the additional jury have performed superbly,” said Ed Seguine, Cacao Cocoa and Chocolate Advisors/Guittard Chocolate.

“We continue to believe that the Cocoa of Excellence as well as the International Cocoa Awards will shine the spotlight of flavors, craftsmanship and diversity on these farmers and bring real, meaningful value to them for their beans,” he added.

The 18 International Cocoa Awards for 2017 are:

Africa & the Indian Ocean

  • Ghana Simon Marfo – associated with Cocoa Abrabopa Association
  • Madagascar Mava Sa – Ferme D’ottange
  • Sierra Leone Sahr Bangura – associated with Kasiyatama
  • Tanzania Kokoa Kamili Limited

Asia, Pacific & Australia

  • Australia Australian Chocolate Pty Ltd
  • Hawaii Jeanne Bennett and Bruce Clements – Nine Fine Mynahs Estates
  • Hawaii University of Hawaii
  • India Regal plantations
  • Malaysia Teo Chun Hoon

Central America & Caribbean

  • Dominica Stewart Paris – Paris Family – associated with North East Cocoa Growers Cooperative
  • El Salvador José Eduardo Zacapa Campos
  • Guatemala Asociación Waxaquib Tzikin
  • Guatemala Mariel Ponce – Kacaou
  • Martinique Kora Bernabe and Elizabeth Pierre-Louis – associated with Valcaco – Association des Producteurs de Cacao de Martinique

South America

  • Bolivia Chocoleco
  • Brazil Emir De Macedo Gomes Filho
  • Ecuador Asociacion Quiroga
  • Peru Cooperativa Agraria APPROCAP Ltda.

Adapted from the press release originally published by Bioversity International. For more information, contact Ines Drouault at the Cocoa of Excellence Programme: i.drouault(at)

The Cocoa of Excellence (CoEx) Programme is the entry point for cocoa-producers to participate in the International Cocoa Awards (ICA). The programme is coordinated by Bioversity International, and jointly organized with Event International in partnership with the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), Guittard Chocolate, Seguine Cacao, Cocoa and Chocolate, Barry Callebaut, Puratos and the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) with sponsorship from the European Cocoa Association (ECA), the Association of Chocolate, Biscuit and Confectionery Industries of Europe (Caobisco), the Federation of Cocoa Commerce (FCC), Nestlé, the Lutheran World Relief (LWR), Mars UK, Valrhona and with in-kind contributions from the Cocoa Research Centre of the University of the West Indies (CRC/UWI), Valrhona, Weiss Chocolate and CocoaTown.

This work contributes to the CGIAR Research Program on Forests for Trees and Agroforestry, supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.

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  • A review of research on the effects of drought and temperature stress and increased CO2 on Theobroma cacao L., and the role of genetic diversity to address climate change

A review of research on the effects of drought and temperature stress and increased CO2 on Theobroma cacao L., and the role of genetic diversity to address climate change

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The global status of research on the effects of drought, temperature and elevated carbon dioxide (CO2) levels on the cacao plant, and the role of genetic diversity in producing more resilient cacao, are presented in this report. With the aim to enhance what we know about the resilience of cacao to climate change, and generate a comprehensive understanding of the questions that remain, this report highlights significant advances in published and ongoing research on drought and temperature tolerance in cacao.

Most of the information about ongoing or unpublished work was obtained from personal communications and surveys involving research institutes around the globe. Organizations were selected to participate in the survey based on their presence in the relevant literature, referrals from other organizations, or personal communications from individuals attesting to their involvement in research related to drought and temperature tolerance, or increased CO2 response, in cacao. A vast network of public and private sector partners including research institutes, producer organizations, and industry representatives around the world participated and were involved to collect additional information on unpublished and on-going research work in this area.

Over 100 scientists from 50 institutes across 29 countries participated. Additional information was gathered from personal communications, surveys carried out in collaboration with WCF and its USAID-supported Feed the Future Partnership for the Climate-Smart Cocoa Program, the Global Network for Cacao Genetic Resources (CacaoNet), the International Network for Cacao Genetic Improvement (INGENIC), the Regional Breeders Working Groups, and the research team on cacao and climate change at the University of Reading, UK. Fundamentally, the literature compiled in this report serves as a basis to understand the questions that still remain regarding cacao’s responses to abiotic stresses, highlight the resources that are available to answer them, and identify synergies and complementarities.

The report also helps to identify key research questions and partners for the development of a proposal for an international/multi-institutional research programme, to be implemented over the next three to five years, as part of the Collaborative Framework for Cacao Evaluation (CFCE). Although future climatic predictions are worrisome, the genetic materials held within national and international collections offer much potential in the development of improved planting material. The objective of the report is to gather as much information as possible, so that we can aim to maximize the resilience of cacao through the discovery and use of improved planting material, in combination with improved management practices.

The authors express gratitude to all of those who provided details of thier research on cacao genetic resources and abiotic stress and acknowledge financial support of WCF and its Feed the Future Partnership for Climate Smart Cocoa, through a grant to Bioversity International from USDA-FAS, the ECA/CAOBISCO/FCC Joint Working Group on Cocoa Quality and Productivity; and the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA).

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  • Cocoa agroforestry is less resilient to sub-optimal and extreme climate than cocoa in full sun

Cocoa agroforestry is less resilient to sub-optimal and extreme climate than cocoa in full sun

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Cocoa agroforestry is perceived as potential adaptation strategy to sub-optimal or adverse environmental conditions such as drought. We tested this strategy over wet, dry and extremely dry periods comparing cocoa in full sun with agroforestry systems: shaded by (i) a leguminous tree species, Albizia ferruginea and (ii) Antiaris toxicaria, the most common shade tree species in the region.

We monitored micro-climate, sap flux density, throughfall, and soil water content from November 2014 to March 2016 at the forest-savannah transition zone of Ghana with climate and drought events during the study period serving as proxy for projected future climatic conditions in marginal cocoa cultivation areas of West Africa. Combined transpiration of cocoa and shade trees was significantly higher than cocoa in full sun during wet and dry periods. During wet period, transpiration rate of cocoa plants shaded by A. ferruginea was significantly lower than cocoa under A. toxicaria and full sun. During the extreme drought of 2015/16, all cocoa plants under A. ferruginea died. Cocoa plants under A. toxicaria suffered 77% mortality and massive stress with significantly reduced sap flux density of 115 g cm−2 day−1, whereas cocoa in full sun maintained higher sap flux density of 170 g cm−2 day−1. Moreover, cocoa sap flux recovery after the extreme drought was significantly higher in full sun (163 g cm−2 day−1) than under A. toxicaria (37 g cm−2 day−1).

Soil water content in full sun was higher than in shaded systems suggesting that cocoa mortality in the shaded systems was linked to strong competition for soil water. The present results have major implications for cocoa cultivation under climate change. Promoting shade cocoa agroforestry as drought resilient system especially under climate change needs to be carefully reconsidered as shade tree species such as the recommended leguminous A. ferruginea constitute major risk to cocoa functioning under extended severe drought.

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  • Moving toward a sustainable cocoa sector in Ghana

Moving toward a sustainable cocoa sector in Ghana

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Cacao pods are collected and heaped on the forest floor, where fermentation begins. Photo by J. Raneri/Bioversity International
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A farmer in Ghana prunes a Carabobo cacao tree, which is originally from Venezuela. Photo by R. Markham/Bioversity International

Ghana is the second-largest producer of cocoa in the world and in recent years has emerged as the world’s principal supplier of Fairtrade-certified cocoa — about 6% of national production falls under that scheme. Multisector collaboration is needed to address persistent challenges and to support Ghana’s overall move to a sustainable cocoa sector.

The world’s favorite treat has never been more popular. In the past decade, the chocolate industry’s demand for cocoa has increased by 12% and production has barely been able to keep pace. Growing demand, particularly from emerging economies like China and India, is good news for the industry.

At the same time, about 6 million cocoa producers — more than 90% of them smallholders — face significant challenges: low productivity, poverty in the producing communities, and limited infrastructure to connect producers with buyers. Improved and diverse planting stock that can resist pest and diseases, thrive in poor soils and grow in changing climatic conditions is in short supply.

With an annual production of about 750,000 to 1 million tons, Ghana is the second-largest producer of cocoa in the world. In recent years, Ghana has also emerged as the world’s principal supplier of Fairtrade-certified cocoa, with about 6% of national production falling under that scheme.

Yet a new report carried out for Fairtrade Africa by the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and Bioversity International, supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), concludes that monetary benefits derived from Fairtrade cocoa remain low, contributing on average an additional 2% of cocoa income for certified farmers. At the same time, cooperatives use part of the Fairtrade Premium to provide their members with farming inputs and training, and to fund overall community development.

Read more: Fairtrade cocoa in Ghana: taking stock and looking ahead

Cacao pods are collected and heaped on the forest floor, where fermentation begins. Photo by J. Raneri/Bioversity International

This relates to the fact that only part of the Fairtrade Premium of US$200 per ton is channeled through the cooperatives to the producers as a cash bonus (16 to 65% of the premium), while the remainder is given as farming inputs like fertilizers, agrochemicals and planting materials (up to 38%), or allocated to fund trainings, cooperative administration, and certification fees (20 to 84%) and overall community development (up to 15%).

One way that voluntary standards like Fairtrade try to empower producers is through the creation of new business organizations such as rural cooperatives. These efforts can go hand-in-hand with those of the cocoa industry, which supports farmers in rejuvenating their aging cocoa plantations.

For the cocoa sector to become sustainable, it will also be critical to attract younger farmers to become cacao producers, empowering them to generate enough income to sustain their families and communities. Rural cooperatives can support this aim but, as the report points out, increased membership of these organizations is only sustainable if sales under Fairtrade terms grow at least at the same rate, which is currently not happening.

The report also points at the importance of diversified production systems, allowing the farmers to be less reliant on cocoa as a principal source of income. Cacao can be planted together with other crops, in particular fruit and timber trees that provide shade for the young cacao saplings and help improve nutrition and income.

Cacao pods are seen on a tree in Ghana. Photo by J. Raneri/Bioversity International

Such diversification makes for more resilient production and livelihood systems. For example, a study* of the relationship between cocoa cultivation and the conservation of biological diversity found that “cacao farms with diverse shade have the potential to support greater local diversity and act as a more effective refuge for some tropical forest organisms than alternative lowland tropical crops, particularly annual crops and cattle pasture.”

The third main finding was that Fairtrade farmers have improved access to training compared to non-members — 99% of cooperative members reported having received training on good agricultural practices, such as pruning and replanting, versus 51% of non-members.

Still, average productivity on Fairtrade-certified farms is within the range of the national average and additional efforts are needed to increase cacao productivity.

Read also: Sweeter deals: Prospects for expanding Fairtrade cocoa in Ghana

Dietmar Stoian from Bioversity International, one of the authors of the study added: “This study provides Fairtrade International, the four recently Fairtrade-certified cocoa cooperatives sampled, and other stakeholders in Ghana’s cocoa sector with a baseline for future impact assessments. The indicators developed for household- and cooperative-level measurements point at potential areas of impact and allow for continuous improvement.”

“In a follow-up study in Ghana, we are now taking a broader look at the country’s move toward a sustainable cocoa sector by identifying the actual and potential role of impact investment, social lending and other responsible finance schemes and their interactions with diverse certification systems to ensure environmental and social impact in addition to financial returns.”

The report was well received by Fairtrade International, and their management’s response concludes that: “We recognize that the coops have many support needs and we agree that key challenges include growing sales, increasing cocoa productivity, supporting agricultural diversification, and strengthening of cooperatives to be able to achieve greater member engagement and gender equality.”

As a result of this study, Fairtrade International will be reviewing the Fairtrade Premium.

Originally published on the website of Bioversity International

The report Baseline for Assessing the Impact of Fairtrade Certification on Cocoa Farmers and Cooperatives in Ghana, jointly elaborated by the World Agroforestry Centre and Bioversity International, is based on data gathered from 422 households belonging to four Fairtrade-certified cooperative unions, and 80 households from non-certified cooperatives. Data was collected based on indicators from Fairtrade’s Theory of Change and the 5Capitals methodology for assessing the poverty impacts of value chain development developed by the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE), the World Agroforestry Centre and Bioversity International.

This research is part of the CGIAR Research Programs on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) and Policies, Institutions and Markets (PIM) and is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors. We thank Transfair Germany and Fairtrade International for funding the project and the donors who support FTA and PIM through their contributions to the CGIAR Funds. We extend our gratitude to reviewers from Fairtrade International, the Fairtrade Foundation, Fairtrade Africa and Transfair Germany. We also appreciate the willingness of representatives of Cooperative Unions and Licensed Buying Companies COCOBOD, who generously shared their insights and experiences.

*Rice, R.A. and Greenberg, R., 2000. Cacao cultivation and the conservation of biological diversity. AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment 29 (3): 167-173.

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  • Baseline for assessing the impact of fairtrade certification on cocoa farmers and cooperatives in Ghana

Baseline for assessing the impact of fairtrade certification on cocoa farmers and cooperatives in Ghana

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Côte d’ Ivoire and Ghana, the two biggest Fairtrade cocoa producers in West Africa, provide about 68 percent of the Fairtrade cocoa that is sold under Fairtrade terms in global markets. In 2013, the volume of Fairtrade cocoa from West Africa reached 133 400 t, involving some 71 cooperatives and producer associations and 138 800 farmers. Most Fairtrade cocoa from West Africa originates from Côte d’Ivoire (CDI) and Ghana, the latter being the subject of this report.

Fairtrade cocoa in Ghana has expanded rapidly in recent years: between 2009 and 2014, sales increased from 481 to 54 600 tonnes, while the number of Fairtrade cooperative unions grew from only one in 2009 to 11 in 2014. The expanding Fairtrade cocoa sector in Ghana faces many of the same challenges as the West African cocoa sector as a whole, including low productivity and poverty in farming communities, limited infrastructure, a rapidly aging farming population, lack of electricity and portable water, and few examples of strong rural cooperatives or other forms of smallholder business organizations.

In this context, important questions arise, such as: What are the capacities and the potential of cooperatives and resource-poor farmers to benefit from participation in Fairtrade certification? How can Fairtrade and partners help address the constraints and opportunities faced by cocoa growers, cooperatives and other players in the cocoa chain?

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  • Fairtrade cocoa in Ghana: taking stock and looking ahead

Fairtrade cocoa in Ghana: taking stock and looking ahead

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Some of the global chocolate industry’s biggest players, such as Ferrero, Mars, and Hershey, have expressed their commitment to achieve a sustainable cocoa sector by the year 2020.

As the world’s second largest producer of cocoa, Ghana is also interested in moving towards sustainable cocoa production. Voluntary standards systems, such as Fairtrade, play an important role in providing independent third-party evidence of progress towards sustainability. Fairtrade does so by offering a framework for producers and buyers to engage in more equitable business relations, with reduced price risks for farmers and opportunities for cooperative and community development through investments enabled by the Fairtrade premium.

Over the past years, Fairtrade has significantly advanced in Ghana’s cocoa sector. Between 2009 and 2014, annual volumes of Fairtrade cocoa produced in the country increased from 481 MT to 54,600 MT. This impressive growth is linked to the evolution of Kuapa Kokoo as leading cocoa cooperative, and to the creation of numerous new cooperatives that obtained Fairtrade certification over the past few years. Founded in 1993 and Fairtrade certified since 1995, Kuapa Kokoo has grown into the world’s largest Fairtrade certified cocoa cooperative.

Journal article published in Sweet Vision, Vol. 61 (3), p. 14-17.

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  • Stepping up to the challenge to end poverty and hunger without trashing the planet

Stepping up to the challenge to end poverty and hunger without trashing the planet

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Cocoa is one of the tree crops this research focuses on. Photo: Neil Palmer/CIAT
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Agroforestry activity, West Kalimantan – Indonesia, 2009. Photo: Ryan Woo/CIFOR

By Fergus Sinclair, Leader Agroforestry Systems, World Agroforestry Centre and Coordinator Flagship 2

The livelihood systems flagship of FTA has set out a bold research agenda from 2017 to 2022 to enhance how trees and forests contribute to smallholder livelihoods, particularly by improving food and nutrition security and increasing household income in the face of global change.

Not everyone agrees that trees can make a difference, and much of the agricultural establishment still sees an antipathy between farming and forestry, but we have more and more evidence that, if managed appropriately, trees can sustain and increase agricultural productivity for many smallholders in developing countries, and address the simultaneous need for food, energy and water in a sustainable way.

It is time to change outdated perspectives: trees and forests should take their rightful place in meeting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

A Systems Approach

In a recent independent evaluation of the Trees for food security project funded by ACIAR (the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research), farmers in Ethiopia articulated the need for a systems approach to agricultural improvement far more eloquently than researchers have ever done.

Exchanging ideas about agroforestry practices. Photo: ICRAF

They were appreciative of the trees established on their farms through the project, but they pointed out that they also needed better water management to realize the potential of the trees (as well as for domestic use and crop irrigation) and to control livestock grazing, if the trees were not to be eaten in the dry season, when herds of camels moved across their landscape. This points to a key problem with much agricultural research.

Often researchers are focused on one component of a farming system: the trees, the maize or the livestock and assume that, as in industrial agricultural systems of the North, maximizing the yield of one component is the key objective.

This is not what smallholders want. They need to maximize the total factor productivity of their whole livelihood system, and this includes more than just agriculture, they may be involved in processing and marketing their farm produce, utilization of forests, or opportunities to earn off-farm income.

Better management of trees can be central to sustainable intensification of smallholder farms through managing interactions–for example producing fuelwood and fodder on the farm from trees, means that people–usually women–don’t have to spend time collecting them and can devote that time to other productive endeavors.

A Lubuk Beringin villager, Rahimah, 70, harvests palm nut or areca nut on her agroforestry farm at Lubuk Beringin village, Bungo district, Jambi province, Indonesia. Photo: Tri Saputro/CIFOR

But, agroforestry is not yet considered in global assessments of research impact, because the crop production models that drive them can’t accommodate interactions between trees and crops. Our flagship will be changing this in 2017 through a strategic collaboration with the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) to develop globally calibrated crop models that incorporate trees.

Flagship 2 is also breaking new ground by using systematic planned comparisons embedded in development initiatives to accelerate development impact. Through key investments from ACIAR, the United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the European Union, and the UK Department for International Development (DFID), thousands of farmers across five countries in Africa will be involved in trying out different options for using trees to improve food and nutritional security, and restore degraded land.

Read also: “Influence flows both ways”: Partnerships are key to research on Livelihood systems

Already this year, the only maize that some farmers in Kenya will harvest is coming from what they planted in trial water harvesting basins, but the power of the planned comparison approach is that it not only delivers locally adapted options today, but also international public goods in terms of understanding how contextual factors condition suitability of options that will enable scaling out.

The food, water, energy nexus

Building on the need for adopting a systems approach, Flagship 2 has a research cluster that focuses on smallholders’ production of timber, food, fuel and non- timber forest products and their marketing.

This connects to research on trees in support of sustainable intensification which looks at how trees impact water cycling on fields and farms and to research under Flagship 4 addressing how trees and forests impact water cycling at landscape and continental scales.

There is a strong focus on value chains that has attracted investment principally from ACIAR and IFAD to develop novel market-based agroforestry options in Uganda, Zambia, Indonesia and Vietnam, and new approaches to managing the forest-farm interface in Burkina Faso and Ghana.

Cocoa is one of the tree crops this research focuses on. Photo: Neil Palmer/CIAT

Tree crop commodities

Some of the most valuable globally traded commodities coffee, cocoa, oil palm and rubber are derived from tree crops, and the majority of production comes from smallholders rather than from large plantations. However, plantations are often the more familiar images that people have in their minds.

Cote d’Ivoire produces around 40% of the global supply of cocoa mainly from smallholder farms, many run by migrant people from drier countries to the north. The cocoa production is now threatened by aging cocoa farms that need rejuvenation (including re-stocking and appropriate fertilization) and by the spread of the virulent cocoa swollen shoot virus disease (CSSVD) that destroys cocoa plants.

Funded by a public private partnership with Mars, we are at the forefront of arresting the spread of CSSVD in Cote d’Ivoire and developing strategies how to rejuvenate and fertilize the crops.

In 2017, this research cluster will also work with Natura on USAID-funded research on oil palm diversification in Brazil and with a range of partners on cocoa and coffee production systems at the forest margin in Peru.

Read also: “Scientists without borders”: ICRAF’s Director General on CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees Agroforestry

Trees in support of sustainable intensification

The largest investment in our portfolio goes to research on how trees underpin soil health and can intensify system interactions on smallholder farms to improve farm income and food and nutrition security.

This research builds on research from FTA Phase 1 that established how trees in fields support greater abundances and activity of beneficial soil organisms as well as tighter water and nutrient cycling.

Fertilizer trees have been shown to be a low-cost way to increase crop yields across Africa, but the performance of different options varies greatly with soil, climate, topographical position, altitude, farm system, household endowments, market access, social capital and the prevailing policy and institutional context within which farmers operate.

For the first time, Flagship 2 will measure the performance of tree-intensification and restoration options with thousands of farmers, across thousands of hectares in five countries in sub-Saharan Africa, using systematic planned comparisons coupled with recent advances in information technology to capture monitoring data from large sample sizes with simple data recording formats with smart phones apps.

This will generate unique data from which a much deeper understanding of the factors that control performance of different agroforestry options (tree species and management practices) can be derived.

Silvopastoral systems

2017 sees the dawn of a new research cluster within our Flagship on silvopastoral systems. It will be co-ordinated by CATIE in Costa Rica but involves research globally, including on the effect of pruning fodder trees in the Sahel, dairy development in East Africa and the value of bamboo as a fodder resource.

In addition to being a strategic fodder resource, trees on pastures have huge potential to reduce stress on livestock that accounts for huge production losses and for animal welfare concerns.

We will work with FTA Flagship 5 on the key role that trees on pastures can play in climate mitigation and adaption strategies for cattle production systems and hence with FTA Flagship 3 how they can underpin sustainable beef certification.

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  • Turning local knowledge on Agroforestry into an online decision support tool for tree selection in smallholder farms

Turning local knowledge on Agroforestry into an online decision support tool for tree selection in smallholder farms

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This paper presents the main features of a unique decision-support tool developed for selecting tree species in coffee and cocoa agroforestry systems. This tool aims at assisting in the selection of appropriate shade trees taking into account local conditions as well as needs and preferences of smallholder farmers while maximizing ecosystem services from plot to landscape level. This user-friendly and practical tool provides site-specific recommendations on tree species selection via simple graphical displays and is targeted towards extension services and stakeholders directly involved in sustainable agroforestry and adaptation to climate change. The tool is based on a simple protocol to collect local agroforestry knowledge through farmers’ interviews and rankings of tree species with respect to locally perceived key ecosystem services. The data collected are first analysed using the BradleyTerry2 package in R, yielding the ranking scores that are used in the decision-support tool. Originally developed for coffee and cocoa systems of Uganda and Ghana, this tool can be extended to other producing regions of the world as well as to other cropping systems. The tool will be tested to see if repeated assessments show consistent ranking scores, and to see if the use of the tool by extension workers improves their shade tree advice to local farmers.

Published at Experimental Agriculture, Cambridge University Press

Open access

Publication year: 2016

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  • Sweeter deals: Prospects for expanding Fairtrade cocoa in Ghana

Sweeter deals: Prospects for expanding Fairtrade cocoa in Ghana

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Photo: Dietmar Stoian/Bioversity International
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Photo: Dietmar Stoian/Bioversity International
All photos: Dietmar Stoian/Bioversity International

An important focus of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) lies on governance, trade and investment in value chains and the effects on smallholders and small-scale rural businesses. A value chain of particular importance to FTA is cocoa, both for its economic implications (roughly US$100 billion annual sales) and relevance for rural livelihoods (about 60 million people derive a significant part of their income from cocoa).

As global chocolate manufacturers increase their commitments to achieve a sustainable cocoa sector in the near future, there is a growing need for third-party evidence of progress towards this goal. Voluntary standards systems, such as Fairtrade, provide such independent testimony, but they themselves require science-based evidence of their contributions to enhanced sustainability.

FTA researchers at World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and Bioversity International have examined the contribution of Fairtrade to support cocoa smallholders in their pursuit of sustainable livelihoods and cocoa cooperatives to develop into viable businesses. This blog presents first findings emerging from a baseline study in Ghana that lays the foundation for assessing the impacts of Fairtrade on cocoa growers and their cooperatives.

Ghana, the world’s second largest cocoa producer, has ratcheted up its contribution of Fairtrade certified cocoa to world supplies within 5 years: production rose from just below 500 tons in 2009 to 54,600 tons in 2014. Around 6.1 percent of the total cocoa production in Ghana now runs under the label Fairtrade (up from less than one percent five years ago). Roughly 5,000 farmers are organized in Fairtrade-certified cocoa cooperatives.


Ghana2“From a global perspective the numbers look even more impressive,” says Dietmar Stoian, Principal Scientist at Bioversity International and one of the FTA researchers involved. “In 2014, Ghana contributed 38 percent to global sales of cocoa under Fairtrade terms.”

“Definitions of sustainable cocoa vary though,” knows Divine Foundjem, Scientist at ICRAF who led the fieldwork in Ghana. “Voluntary standards systems, such as Fairtrade, are critically important as they provide third-party evidence of the industry’s move towards sustainability.”

What makes Fairtrade stand out?

The Fairtrade label stands for more equitable business relationships between cocoa growers, their cooperatives and buyers purchasing from them. Special arrangements allow farmers and their cooperatives to reduce price risks and to benefit from premiums that can be used in many ways. For example, Fairtrade guarantees a floor price (of currently US$ 2,000 per metric ton) that kicks in when the world market price falls below that level.

Since December 2007, though, the latter has constantly been above US$2,000/MT (it currently stands at about US$3,100/MT) and, consequently, growers’ monetary benefits have principally materialized in form of the Fairtrade premium (US$200/MT), which is paid directly by international buyers. Cooperatives decide how to use the premium according to Fairtrade regulations. In many cases, they invest part of it in cooperative and community development and use the remainder for topping up the price paid to their members. Fairtrade growers also benefit from technical assistance provided by local Fairtrade staff and NGO partners who build capacities for good production practices and awareness for eliminating the worst forms of child labor.

What are some challenges for cooperatives and farmers?


Ghana5The biggest challenge faced by the cooperatives in terms of Fairtrade is the limited volume of certified cocoa that is effectively sold under Fairtrade conditions – a prerequisite for commanding the Fairtrade premium. The current share of a bit less than 50 percent of Fairtrade-certified cocoa effectively sold as such is clearly below expectations.

Given the considerable expense to establish and maintain a well- functioning cooperative it is of high priority for the cocoa cooperatives and Fairtrade to establish reliable market outlets for the whole volume of Fairtrade-certified cocoa, so as to enable the growers to fully benefit from their efforts.

A further challenge for the cooperatives is their high dependence on a limited number of service providers—in most cases, a single NGO. The service offer of any such provider will hardly do justice to the complex and varying service needs of the cooperatives in different stages of their development. Overreliance on a single service provider puts cooperatives in a risky position for developing them into self-sufficient, viable businesses.

“Cooperative development will strongly depend on improving their financial and overall business management,” says Jason Donovan, Leader, Value Chains and Transformational Change at ICRAF who leads the study. “The newly formed cooperatives lack basic infrastructure and business skills, and they rely on the Fairtrade premium as only source for covering their basic operational costs,” he adds.

So far, only one of the 11 Fairtrade-certified cooperatives in Ghana, Kuapa Kokoo, has been authorized to purchase cocoa on behalf of the Ghanaian Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) and, thus, cover its costs through commercial activities.

The basic functions of the newly formed cocoa cooperatives include linking their members with buying companies licensed by COCOBOD that can establish links with Fairtrade markets, and with NGOs and others that provide services to cocoa growers. For some, Kuapa Kokoo, which was established in 1993, may serve as an example of how cooperatives can develop into an established licensed cocoa buyer with several thousand members.


Ghana3“Such processes often take decades, though, and considerable amounts of resources,” says Foundjem. “It is therefore critical for local stakeholders and Fairtrade to define if future efforts should aim at building cooperative capacity to engage as licensed cocoa buyers, or to keep investments low and aim at building agile organizations that facilitate links with buyers, Fairtrade, NGOs and others, without engaging in the purchase of cocoa,” he adds.

Asked about the outlook for Fairtrade cocoa in Ghana, the scientists express “cautious optimism”. Cautious – because building viable cooperatives implies significant investments of human and financial resources over longer periods of time. Optimism – because the unique institutional setup of Ghana’s cocoa sector could facilitate more coordinated and larger scale interventions in support of poor households who grow cocoa.

A central role accrues to COCOBOD, a government agency that supports farmers with regard to seed production, pest and disease management, quality control, research, and marketing. This extensive service function, supported by NGOs and development projects, would make it possible to establish a relatively simple, low-cost cooperative model focused on facilitating relations with buyers, service providers, and Fairtrade.

“This would require better coordination between governmental and non-governmental service providers,” says Donovan. “A national cocoa roundtable, or similar mechanism, could be the way ahead,” he adds. “We also recommend an innovative system of monitoring, evaluation and learning between cooperatives, Fairtrade and their partners. Such a system would allow joint analysis and reflection among key stakeholders. Our baseline study provides a sound basis for such a system which, in turn, facilitates continuous improvement,” concludes Stoian.

What’s next?

In line with the recommendation to establish an integrated system of monitoring, evaluation and learning, future research can support a process of continuous improvement by answering questions like:

  • How can benefits from Fairtrade be expanded among existing and additional cooperatives and their members?
  • Which collaborative models between Fairtrade and other service providers are most promising towards this end?
  • What additional enabling conditions are needed to address broader challenges faced by cocoa cooperatives and their members, particularly those that impede viable pathways out of poverty?

“Such questions could be addressed in follow-up studies, including impact assessments using the baseline data for comparison, and we are keen to continue this work with Fairtrade International and partners in Africa and beyond,” says Donovan. The ICRAF and Bioversity team is currently finalizing the Ghana report and a similar report on Côte d’Ivoire, and will condense the findings in a journal article that discusses commonalities and differences between these two leading cocoa producers as well as opportunities for scaling the findings beyond West Africa.

This work is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.

For more information:

Jason Donovan (ICRAF):

Divine Foundjem (ICRAF):

Dietmar Stoian: (Bioversity International):



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