To safeguard the future of cocoa, we must increase the yield per hectare, helping farmers earn a better income and ensuring a lasting supply.
Better cocoa production practices are needed to help safeguard household incomes and ensure that cocoa farming is a viable option for the next generation of growers, including young women.
So alongside community development initiatives in cocoa-growing regions in Africa, the Foundation focuses intently on training and support designed to improve productivity – the first step toward improving livelihoods of farmers and their communities, and eliminating extreme poverty.
When you look after a cocoa tree you look after your whole family. You think of it as if it was one of your own children – and give it the same love, attention and nourishment, so you can have a prosperous farm and a prosperous family.”
Together with our partners, we utilize a robust training infrastructure to further develop and evolve farmer skills.
Accreditation of trainers
Our farmer trainers go through an intensive accreditation process covering agronomy, farming as a business and adult education. This improves their knowledge and confidence and raises their level of credibility. They can then lead by example and encourage the adoption of best practices.
Farmer Field Schools
Accredited trainers conduct Farmer Field Schools (FFS) throughout the year to coach groups of cocoa farmers to adopt good agricultural practices in order to help them increase their yield, income and livelihood.
FFS offer varied training modules to perpetuate knowledge sharing and serve as an incentive for farmers to regularly attend. In addition to agricultural topics, the training modules will also incorporate topics that are instrumental to ensure farmer resiliency, such as functional literacy and business skills.
It’s not just something that I do for the money, it’s a something I’m really proud of. By completing the training you learn a good work ethic, and that gives you satisfaction for your work.”
Demonstration plots encourage learning to be applied by showcasing a range of innovative farming methods – including composting, pruning, fertilizer use and crop protection, as well as rehabilitation and crop diversification. These plots are instrumental in demonstrating the benefits of these techniques to the farmers and encouraging them to implement new and effective practices.
Within a three-year cycle, all registered farmers are trained in order to build capacity and raise awareness of sustainable cocoa production practices. The training will cover the following topics:
Good agricultural practices
Weed control is essential for cocoa trees during the first three years of development. Farmers are trained in manual weeding techniques to assure the best possible conditions for maximum nutrients and root space, and to minimize breeding sites for pests.
Shade is important at all stages of growth, from about 75% shade during juvenile stages of development to 25% after maturity. Farmers are trained in various shade management techniques, such as intercropping.
Pest and disease management
Cocoa farms should be checked regularly for pests and disease. Farmers are taught preventive measures, such as early removal and elimination of black pods by burying or burning them. Pesticides should only be used as a last resort.
Farmers are educated in pruning techniques, as this improves air circulation around and within the tree; reduces the risk of pest and disease infestations; shapes the tree to facilitate harvesting; balances energy efficiency between leaves and pods; and allows for more sunlight to filter through the canopy to increase productivity.
It often takes proof to believe in new practices. There was a farmer in one community in which we work, so shocked that the pruner cut off branches that still produced pods, that he chased the pruner away half way through the job. Months later, when the farmer saw how his pruned trees were more vigorous and giving more fruit, he pleaded for the pruner to return. Result: one happy farmer who now believes in the evidence he could see for himself – pruning is good for crop yields, good for tree health and good for business. We encourage youth within the community to become expert pruners, giving them a skill and an economic opportunity, and providing an important service to local farmers.
Farmers are trained in proper harvesting techniques such as optimal timing and ripeness, the utilization of harvesting tools to avoid damaging the flower cushions and the bark, and the opening of cocoa pods to best extract the beans without wounding them.
Farmers are taught that cocoa trees that produce fewer than 10 pods per year or that are older than 30 years should be removed and replaced by seedlings. Only improved plant material should be used. Some trees can also be drastically pruned and possibly grafted to give them a second life.
With insufficient soil cover, rains can wash away soils, resulting in crevasses and loss of fertility. Additionally, overuse of land depletes the soil of essential nutrients. Farmers are taught how to combat this; for example, by covering the soil and adding plants for biomass.
Cocoa Horizons Foundation trains farmers to use pod husks for composting and banana leaves for fermenting, and how growing leguminous plants can provide a food crop as well as enriching the soil.
Good environmental practices
Training focuses on increasing awareness and knowledge of sustainable farming practices that can benefit the environment.
Where needed, farmers are coached by local experts in order to provide basic literacy and numeracy skills.
The Farmer Field Schools curriculum contains a mandatory module on child labor. The aim of the training sessions is to raise awareness about child labor issues and promote schooling for children.
The purpose is to have a transparent supply chain linking farmers directly to buying sites, illustrated by a system that traces the beans from the farmer to warehouses. At the start of the crop, farmers are trained on the implementation of this traceability system.
Training also focuses on ensuring that farmers meet the cocoa quality requirements and that they are able to commercialize their product.
Health and safety
Training provides group members with the knowledge and tools needed to ensure their own safety and that of other farm workers to support the well-being of their communities. Health and safety training is given through a module taught within the Farmer Field Schools.
Customers of Barry Callebaut’s sustainable HORIZONS cocoa and chocolate products will pay a premium on the volumes they buy, part of which will be paid directly to farmers and farmer groups, increasing their income and enabling them to invest in their farms and communities. The rest will be used to further empower cocoa farmers by supporting the implementation of our cocoa sustainability activities.
Farm services delivery model
This model facilitates access to technical knowledge (pruning experts), inputs (such as crop protection products and fertilizer) and planting material by partnering with farmer groups and input suppliers.
Developing innovative financing solutions and savings support enables farmers to invest in their farm and productivity. For example, mobile banking technology has been developed, which allows farmers to be paid remotely, safely securing their transactions and encouraging them to save.
We believe productivity improvement is the primary step to increasing farmer livelihoods and making cocoa farming an attractive and viable business for future generations. 41% of the HORIZONS product premium is allocated for productivity training.