Message from Tony

Tony Simons
Director General,
World Agroforestry Centre

With over 4.5 million smallholder cocoa farmers worldwide and the need to increase cocoa production by 1 million tonnes by 2020, our work at ICRAF in partnership with Mars Inc. is critical in making it possible for farmers to first feed themselves. After all a poor farmer can only yield poor results. Strengthening smallholder farming will ensure food security, alleviate poverty and prevent rural-urban migration that could eventually starve the world as more labour moves to the city.

In working to build private/public partnerships that benefit the farmer and the corporation, we are building sustainable farming that will produce for future generations. Through our Vision for Change project (V4C) the future of cocoa production is lucrative with US$2.4 billion worth of cocoa beans exported by Côte d'Ivoire in 2010. Cocoa has, in the years between 2000 and 2009, seen a 283 percent increase in commodity price.

A similar project, the Mars Cocoa Sustainability Initiative in Indonesia, incorporates 40,000 farmers ensuring that through the income made from the sale of increased yields, children go to school, families can afford much needed medical care and that there is enough money to invest in other projects in order to diversify domestic income.

Côte d'Ivoire is the world's largest cocoa producer and our latest programme in Soubre, West Africa, has already reached 10,000 farmers. By 2020 we will be working with 150,000 farmers in the region. In 2009, Côte d'Ivoire produced 30 percent of the world's cocoa. A primary source of concern in cocoa farming is the needed increase of a million tonnes in the next decade, to feed the world's love for chocolate. With a growing population and therefore new land to grow new crop, our focus has been on rehabilitation of cocoa farms, some of which have remained neglected for over 25 years. 

The Vision for Change partnership comprising Mars Inc., ICRAF, CNRA, Agence Nationale d'Appui au Développement Rural (ANADER) works to improve the livelihoods of farmers through research on developing improved cocoa varieties, securing markets for agroforestry products and quantifying the potential for trees on farms for climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Our research has ensured that we secure and reproduce the improved cocoa crop that will yield higher results. In 2011 alone, Côte d'Ivoire produced 1.4 million tonnes of cocoa, a large percentage of which came from our main partnership site in Soubre where we currently have 13 Centres for Cocoa Development (CDC).

Our project in Soubre is ready to be scaled up to other regions in West Africa. It is our belief that the poorest farmers have in their hands the tools to secure their future, tools that will allow them to fruitfully till the land under their feet so that they can secure their children's legacy.

Tony Simons speech at CNRA Cocoa Lab Opening on 20 November 2012
"In the context of Africa, we often talk about capacity development but in this case perhaps the term capacity mobilization is better. Here we have an African problem being addressed by African institutions and moreover being managed by Africans." …read Tony's speech

Scientist Profiles

Dr. Christophe Kouame

"With the V4C project, ICRAF will use its expertise in agroforestry to address both lives and landscape issues that cocoa communities are facing."  more...
Dr. Lucien Diby

 “Land management is key to high and sustainable productivity. With cash crops like cocoa, farmers are willing to invest; our role is to use a science-based approach to help them make the right investments for more profit.” more...
Dr. Jane Kahia

“Biotechnology has the potential to boost cocoa production, minimize hunger and poverty and empower women who are the majority smallholder farmers in the developing world.”  more...

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Cote d'Ivoire/ West Africa: Claude Adjehi
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