Sharing knowledge for more chocolate
Hundreds of thousands of farming families have benefited from improvements to the cocoa industry in Indonesia. Cocoa Futures documents how this transformation came about and how the lessons learned will be used by chocolate producers, Mars Inc and the World Agroforestry Centre to revitalize the cocoa industry in Côte d’Ivoire
Farmers in Côte d’Ivoire currently have an average of 3 hectares each, with yields of around 400 kg per hectare. The new Vision of Change project aims to increase these yields and improve livelihoods through rehabilitating old cocoa gardens using high-yielding varieties of cocoa and good agricultural practices.
"If we can push yields up to 1000 kg per hectare, then farmers could produce the same amount of cocoa on just over a third of their land,” says Tony Simons, Deputy Director General of the World Agroforestry Centre. “They could then devote the rest of their land to timber, fruit and other crops."
Mars’ successes in Indonesia hold great promise for producers across the world as the demand for cocoa continues to rise by 2% every year. Annual production needs to increase by one million tonnes over the next decade, and as there is little new land available to create new cocoa farms, this increase will have to come from the rehabilitation of existing farms.
Cocoa Futures documents how Mars and partners in Indonesia established and nurtured a network of expertise so as to improve the productivity of the farmed landscape and the livelihoods of families who grow Theobroma cacao, or ‘food of the gods’.
Among their early efforts was the Pest Reduction and Integrated Management (PRIMA) project which began in 2003 in Sulawesi to combat the cocoa pod borer which was reducing the cocoa harvest by around 40%. The project was successful in reducing losses from the pest, but the real gains came from research which continues today into identifying the varieties which give the best yields and greatest resistance to disease.
“We found that by introducing good agricultural practices, farmers could increase their yields by around 30%," says Hussin bin Purung, Mars field coordinator. "But what really made a difference was the introduction of high-quality clonal material.”
Another important factor was the need to replace ageing trees. By introducing short, high-yielding varieties or by grafting budwood from superior varieties onto old trees, farmers have been able to double or triple their yields.
Early on Mars set about establishing networks of nurseries and demonstration sites run by farmers’ groups but they soon realized their efforts in dissemination and spreading uptake of the new techniques and knowledge would be more effective if they encouraged farmers to become entrepreneurs.
Enter the cocoa doctors such as Muis Samsuddin. Mars provided him with a package of 100 clonal seedlings of 10 different varieties, budwood for grafting, polythene bags and some basic equipment. With a loan from his family, Muis set up one of Mars’ village cocoa clinics. He sells seedlings which are improving local yields and incomes. He also trains farmers how to graft high-yielding varieties onto old, unproductive cocoa trees. Already, he's made enough money from his nursery to renovate the small house where he lives with his wife and young children.
To bring together all the efforts – from Mars, government agencies, research institutes, NGOs, cocoa buyers and grinders and international donors - to improve cocoa production and the livelihoods of cocoa farmers, Mars established its Cocoa Development Centres.
Farmers, extension staff, field facilitators and trainers come to these Centres to see demonstrations on the use of superior planting materials, the best ways to rehabilitate old cocoa gardens, different methods of disease and pest management, and post-harvest practices which enable farmers to produce high-quality cocoa. The Centres are also important research sites, where scientists conduct clonal trials, test different types of pest management and explore the best methods of technology transfer.
Training of farmers is obviously an important element. By the end of 2010, Mars and its partners had provided training in cocoa production to over 40,000 farmers, 135 government extension officers and 279 other individuals who provide training to cocoa farmers.
Haji Hassan of Cendana Hijau Larol Village was one of these. Thanks to what he has learnt, Haji has grafted superior clonal material onto half an acre of old cocoa trees. The grafts have taken so well, and the trees are healthy; he expects future annual harvests of around 2 t/ha.
The work in Sulawesi has so far spread to the Indonesia island of Flores and the northwest province of Aceh as well as beyond the archipelago to Papua and the Philippines. International development organizations have shown interest in the approach and successes achieved by Mars, and the training and extension model developed by Mars in Sulawesi has been enthusiastically adopted by other organizations within Indonesia.
Next to benefit will be Côte d’Ivoire through the Vision of Change project with the World Agroforestry Centre. Not only will this improve cocoa productivity, but encourage farmers to plant a mosaic of different crops and restore a degraded environment. This should dramatically improve the welfare of rural communities, and ensure that Mars and its competitors have a high-quality supply of the raw material they need to prosper in future.
With the Vision of Change project, the World Agroforestry Centre will draw on its experience in West Africa, where its scientists pioneered, and helped farmers to develop a network of rural resource centres which perform a similar function to the Mars Cocoa Development Centres. Two cocoa-development centres have already been established in Soubré region of Côte d’Ivoire, each of which now serves a network of centres villageoises de cacaoculture. The next step is to focus on scaling up and extending the program with the help of new partners from the private, government and NGO sectors.