Barry Callebaut hopes to train about 300 farmers in cocoa husbandry in the first year that its new Cocoa Center of Excellence in Côte d'Ivoire is open. And then those trainers will be able to go out into the communities and train others.
The $1.1-million center, which was inaugurated July 5, includes training facilities for farmers and a 30-hectare "showcase farm" to demonstrate state-of-the-art intercropping techniques and yield enhancement practices to increase farm productivity.
The inauguration event was organized by Barry Callebaut's subsidiary in Côte d'Ivoire, Société Africaine de Cacao (SACO).
Guests included: His Excellency Bandama Maurice, Minister of Culture and Francophonie, representatives from national ministries in Côte d'Ivoire; representatives from the governments of Belgium, Switzerland and the United States; other national and local government officials and leaders; farmers and managers from cocoa cooperatives in the region; and community members.
The facility has both field and classroom training areas, separate nurseries for cocoa plants and shade trees, as well as fermentation and drying facilities, which can be used to demonstrate proper post-harvest management practices.
The site will be used to train farmer trainers as well as managers and administrators from cooperatives and other farmer organizations. The cocoa training curriculum includes modules on:
- Good Agricultural Practices (GAP)
- post-harvest management techniques
- crop diversification
- farm rehabilitation
- basic business skills
- social issues, such as labor practices, child protection
- other education and health topics
"The farmers in the surrounding communities have already shown great interest in the Center and our 'showcase farm,'” says Anke Massart, project leader of Cocoa Horizons in Côte d'Ivoire. "At Barry Callebaut, we see a great opportunity for accelerating the adoption of sustainable practices by training a new generation of trainers in these advanced techniques, and continuing to coach and support them as they share the knowledge with farmers in their home communities and regions."
The "showcase farm" is also being used to demonstrate the appropriate use of shade trees to protect young cocoa plants on smallholder farms. In the past year, sections of the farm have been planted to test approaches for growing cocoa with other crops including plantain, coconut, mango, pineapple, beans and maize, as well as rubber.
Barry Callebaut is building on its prior experience with intercropping of compatible plants to improve productivity and biodiversity. Since, 2010 Barry Callebaut has supported a local project in the region to demonstrate optimal methods of intercropping cocoa, banana and rubber with the goal of improving yields per hectare.
In addition to the environmental benefits, planting other food crops and trees together with cocoa also directly benefits farmers and their families by providing variety to the family diet as well as creating additional sources of income to complement the earnings from cocoa.
The new Center will be affiliated with the other Barry Callebaut training facilities slated to be constructed in Côte d'Ivoire in the next 12 months. These facilities, called Barry Callebaut Farmer Academies, will be located in rural communities to serve as training centers or hubs for farmers in more remote communities.
The Farmer Academies will offer training and support services to reinforce concepts communicated in Farmer Field Schools and to promote the adoption of sustainable agricultural practices and advanced yield techniques, such as grafting, to improve farm productivity.
The new Cocoa Center of Excellence is a cornerstone of Barry Callebaut's global Cocoa Horizons sustainability initiative launched in March 2012.
Through Cocoa Horizons programs and activities, Barry Callebaut aims to help build and extend the capacities of farmers, farmer trainers and farmer organizations by offering agricultural trainings to improve cocoa quality and further boost crop yields per hectare, technical consultations and farm management and business support services to tens of thousands of smallholders in key cocoa producing regions in the world.