World Cocoa Foundation to Focus on Farm Innovation, Safety

The World Cocoa Foundation will convene more than 70 experts from around the world beginning tomorrow in Washington, D.C., to identify ways to drive innovation in cocoa farming. The Cocoa Innovations Symposium, which concludes Friday, will focus on labor-saving technologies and production efficiency, farm safety, education, and community development, as well as on monitoring innovative approaches and evaluating their impact and suitability for scale-up. The symposium will conclude with the announcement of $140,000 in cocoa innovation challenge grants to be awarded in October to local organizations and institutions in cocoa-producing countries.

"More than five million smallholder farm families around the world depend upon cocoa farming for their livelihood," said Bill Guyton, president of the World Cocoa Foundation. "Yet most of these families grow cocoa as their parents and grandparents did, using traditional farming methods. Today, we have a tremendous opportunity to transform these farming practices in truly innovative ways, helping these families better their lives by unlocking the economic potential of this unique and important crop."

The 70-plus experts representing cocoa producing countries, farmer organizations, research institutes, NGOs, international donors, and industry will review innovation opportunities in three areas during the two-day event:

  • Farm-level innovation: focusing on labor-saving technologies and production efficiency in such areas as applied research, post-harvest mechanization, cocoa-pod composting, and solar driers;
  • Farm safety: exploring ways to make cocoa farming safer, including alternative tools, harvesting mechanization, and integrated pest management; and
  • Education and community development: including training approaches and methods of disseminating information related to basic education, farmer training, sensitization on social issues, and farmer organization development.

The grants announced at the symposium’s conclusion will be used to design and test innovative technologies that benefit cocoa farmers and build the capacity of local extension services and farmer associations. "We know that cocoa can be an engine for economic development in the rural tropics. However, innovative approaches are needed if this potential is to be fully realized,” said Sona Ebai, chief secretary director of the Cocoa Producers' Alliance. “This Symposium and the challenge grants to be awarded in October will advance this work significantly, helping us build a brighter, more rewarding future for the world's cocoa farmers and their families."

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