Sunday 05 February 2023

World Cocoa Foundation Partnership Meeting focused on on Sustainability

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ABIDJAN, Côte d’Ivoire – Last week, the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF), in collaboration with Le Conseil du Café-Cacao, convened its annual Partnership Meeting in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, the world’s leading producer of cocoa.

More than 500 representatives from the global chocolate and cocoa sector, including farmers, as well as international donor groups and civil society organizations and other key cocoa-producing countries such as Cameroon, Colombia, Ecuador, Ghana and Nigeria, gathered to address critical sustainability issues confronting the cocoa sector.

Among the featured speakers were Ivorian Prime Minister Daniel Kablan Duncan, First Lady Dominique Ouattara, and newly appointed WCF President Richard Scobey.

In remarks that opened the meeting, Prime Minister Duncan highlighted four key challenges to sustainability in the sector, namely improving cocoa productivity, mitigating the effects of climate change and fighting deforestation, improving farmers’ incomes and boosting value-added processing of cocoa before it leaves Ivorian shores.

According to Scobey, “It was very exciting to see the growing alignment and commitment among all of the actors in the cocoa supply chain on the issues, namely sustainable livelihoods, deforestation and empowerment of women and protection of children in cocoa-growing communities.

On some issues, such as protection of children and women’s empowerment, we have a good understanding of what’s needed, whereas in other areas, such as deforestation and sustainable livelihoods, we need to do more work to understand better the context and then try different solutions.”

Ivorian First Lady Dominique Ouattara addressed head-on the issue of protecting children from illegal forms of work.

She applauded industry efforts to build and provide materials to dozens of schools in cocoa-growing communities.

She also announced plans by the Ivorian government to build more than 4,500 classrooms and 37 secondary schools in cocoa-growing areas, in addition to cross-border cooperation on the child labor issue with neighboring countries in West Africa.

In contrast to past years’ meetings, the discussions in Abidjan revealed a growing level of trust and commitment to work together among the different supply chain stakeholders.

CocoaAction, industry’s voluntary sustainability strategy, was cited as a strong framework for accelerating cooperation between the chocolate and cocoa industry and governments, donors and others.

Early results of CocoaAction, launched two years ago, were provided by more than a dozen speakers from farmer groups, certifying bodies, donors, civil society, governments and industry.

In conjunction with the discussions, WCF released its first-ever CocoaAction annual report, which covers the strategy’s progress through 2015. A second report will be released in 2017.

During the Partnership Meeting, WCF and the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Feed the Future program announced African Cocoa Initiative II, a five-year, $12 million effort to increase production of quality cocoa planting materials and provide services to cocoa farmers in Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Nigeria.

WCF also convened regional cocoa research scientists and government cocoa regulatory agencies to address the growing impact of Cocoa Swollen Shoot Virus (CSSV), a disease fatal to cocoa trees that was first detected in Ghana in the 1930s and now threatens the crop across the West African region.

Participants broadly agreed that a regional action plan is urgently needed to control the spread of CSSV.

Scobey said of the week’s discussions, “There was a strong endorsement of a shared vision for an inclusive cocoa future, where the focus is on sustainable livelihoods for farmers, a better-protected planet, and prosperous businesses, from the farm level through to the chocolate maker, that create jobs and value.”

The meeting underscored the importance of innovation, and showcased a number of new products, services and technologies that support transformation of the cocoa supply chain.

WCF also announced specific commitments to deepen partnership with civil society organizations, international financial organizations and cocoa producing countries’ governments.

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