The most interactive edition ever of the World Cocoa Conference, the fourth in the ICCO’s series, was held at the Maritim Berlin Hotel in the German capital in late April, attracting about 1,500 attendees from 65 countries.
The Conference, which was generously hosted by the government of the German Federal Republic, and co-organised with the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture, was also graced with the participation of dignitaries including ministers from ICCO Member cocoa exporting countries: Côte d’Ivoire (Minister of Trade of Côte d’Ivoire, H.E. Mr. Souleymane Diarrassouba), Cameroon (Minister of Trade H.E. Mr. Luc Magloire Mbarga Atangana), Ecuador (Minister of Agriculture H.E. Mr. Rubén Flores Agreda), Nicaragua (Minister of Development, Industry and Commerce H.E. Mr. Orlando Solorzano Delgadillo), the Dominican Republic (Minister of Agriculture H.E. Mr. Angel Estevez Boudierd, and, representing Peruvian Minister of Agriculture H.E. Mr. Gustavo Eduardo Mostajo Ocola, the Ambassador of Peru to Germany, H.E. Mr. Elmer Schialer.
Also on hand to address delegates were Frank Mars, Board Member of Mars, the platinum sponsor of the four-day event, along with senior representatives of a number of important NGOs, civil society organizations and international donor agencies.
Conference delegates were welcomed to Berlin by Senator Dr. Dirk Behrendt, and the official Welcome Address was given by German Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture, H.E. Ms. Julia Klöckner. The opening session of the Conference also heard from youngsters from the German-based anti-child labour lobby group Schokofair.
ICCO Executive Director Dr. Jean-Marc Anga gave the keynote presentation of the Conference, offering his candid view of the current situation in the cocoa sector and outlining his vision for achieving the changes required for the Global Cocoa Agenda, agreed at the first WCC in Abidjan in 2012.
Inspirational speaker and author Rick Antonson advised the large audience to consider legacy issues in its discussions about the future of the sector, and use ‘cathedral thinking’ to address the ultimate goals for cocoa.
Master of ceremonies Lucas Simons of NewForesight led the main Conference proceedings, and introduced a number of innovations to the Conference, aimed at increasing audience participation and providing practical and useful thinking from the entire audience of stakeholders on the serious issues being addressed.
One of these was to invite the entire audience to discuss the presentations around round discussion tables set up in each of their chosen tracks across four major Conference topic areas in cocoa: Sustainable Production, Sustainable Industry, Sustainable Consumption and Sustainable Management.
He introduced the moderators who would guide the tracks, consisting of ‘deep dives’ into possible solutions for the sector: Simran Sethi, journalist and Fellow of the Institute for Food and Development Policy, who led the Production track; Committee on Sustainability Assessment President Daniele Giovannicci, who took the helmfor the Industry track; Dr. Torben Erbrath, Director of the Association for the German Confectionery Industry, leading the Consumption track, and Lucas Simons himself who led the Management track.
The audience was also invited at many stages to be more involved in the proceedings of the Conference by taking part in extra impact interviews (organized by NGO Solidaridad) with personalities from the sector, by being active in the interactive polling that took place at several points during the plenary sessions and by contributing to the Twitter wall that was actively used throughout the event.
The first afternoon offered a taster of each of the track topics, with panel sessions on topics ranging from achieving living income for farmers and addressing deforestation, through to stakeholder influence on the entire value chain and a new vision from producing countries, industry, civil society and farmers themselves.
The four breakout sessions of the second day of the Conference included a series of short and in-depth presentation ‘bursts’, before the members of the audience were invited to discuss, comment and make proposals on what they had heard. Led by the track moderators, the audience inputs were compiled at the end of the day to feed their ideas into the Berlin Declaration, the document that came out of the Conference aimed at showing a way forward for the sector.
The final day of the Conference addressed the next steps for the sector to take and the way forward, with an opening statement by the Assistant Secretary General of the ACP Secretariat, Viwanou Gnassounou, and including a summing up of the four tracks by the moderators.
Other sessions dealt with assessing the progress toward a sustainable world cocoa economy, looked at new products and new potential in the cocoa and chocolate sector, reported on the highlights of the International Symposium on Cocoa Research in Peru last November to show the way science is supporting cocoa farming, and addresses gender issues and the empowerment of women in the sector.
It was then time for the audience to consider the draft of the Berlin Declaration, to which each of them had contributed via the discussions and the ongoing Twitter wall and other social media channels.
The statement was then amended to take in many of the comments and suggestions that came in, making its content the most wide-ranging and representative position on the world cocoa sector yet produced by the WCC or the ICCO.
You can see the final version of the Berlin Declaration and the compiled comments from the four tracks here.
Two popular side events at the Conference drew large audiences who gave their rapt attention: the second editions of both the Fine Flavour Forum, which immediately preceded the Conference, and the Women in Cocoa and Chocolate event, which took place on one of the Conference evenings.
The Fine Flavour Forum, devised in conjunction with the International Institute of Chocolate and Cacao Tasting and moderated by IICCT Director Martin Christy and Founder Maricel Presilla.
The day-long meeting looking at the fine cocoa and chocolate segment of the market, packed in discussions of new responses to issues like standards for evaluating fine cocoa and chocolate, productivity and profit in the sector, the increase in small-scale production and the threat from cadmium legislation.
It included reports on the latest developments in the main fine flavour cocoa origins, some discussion segments and even a chocolate tasting.
The Women in Cocoa and Chocolate event, co-organized with NGO Solidaridad and sponsored by Mondelēz International brought together speakers from civil society, industry and farmers themselves, for an evening of interactive discussion, food, drink, music and dance that was much appreciated by all those who attended and underlined not only the role of women in cocoa but also how increasing their inclusion is even more crucial with the challenges that the sector now has to face.
Socially, delegates gathered in the WCC Exhibition, where suppliers to the sector were showing their latest products and services, for the Welcome Reception, to be greeted by Freidrich Wacker of the German Ministry of Food and Agriculture Food and by the ICCO’s Dr. Jean-Marc Anga.
The Executive Director also took charge at the Conference Gala Dinner, held in the splendid 18th Century courtyard of the German Historical Museum, and graciously sponsored by Mondelēz International, whose Executive Vice President and President Europe, Hubert Weber, addressed the delegates during the evening.
As is the tradition at this event, the ICCO also presented artisanal mementos of the occasion to the German host nation (represented by Hans-Joachim Fuchtel, Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture) and to the three winners of special recognition for their work in the sector.
The deserving recipients were Madam Yatta Samah, Chairperson of the Moawoma Rural Women’s Development Association of Sierra Leone, Antonie Fountain, Managing Director of the Netherlands-based NGO group VOICE network, and Dr. José Antonio Martinez Rojas, of the Comisión Nacional del Cacao of the Dominican Republic, a veteran representative of his country to the ICCO.
The main Conference concluded with closing remarks from the host government, delivered by Dr. Maria Flachsbarth, Parliamentary State Secretary to the German Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, and was wrapped up by Dr. Anga, who thanked the German government hosts, the organizing partners, the moderators and speakers as well as the many sponsors, donors, exhibitors, and assistants for their collective help in creating the most successful — and interactive — World Cocoa Conference yet.