Barry Callebaut has opened its first Cocoa Center of Excellence to teach best practices for sustainable cocoa farming in Côte d'Ivoire, the world’s number one cocoa-producing country.
The Pacobo-based center is part of the chocolate and cocoa manufacturer’s Cocoa Horizons project, which pledged €33.2m (CHF 40m) for sustainability initiatives over ten years, starting March 2012. The company so far has invested about CHF 1m (€800,000 or $1.1m) in the Côte d'Ivoire center, which includes a 30-acre showcase farm to demonstrate farm management practices and techniques to increase quality and yield.
"The farmers in the surrounding communities have already shown great interest in the Center and our 'showcase farm' where we are demonstrating crop diversification approaches that complement cocoa production, ensure food security and generate additional sources of income for families," said Cocoa Horizons project leader in Côte d'Ivoire Anke Massart.
The training curriculum includes teaching post-harvest management techniques, as well as education on crop diversification, the use of shade trees for protecting young cocoa plants, grafting, composting, business skills, and social issues like labor practices.
Barry Callebaut said it would train about 300 trainers and managers a year at the center, which would be supported by other farmer training facilities to be built in more remote parts of the country over the coming year.
The behavior of chocolate manufacturers in the Ivory Coast region has been heavily scrutinized in recent years as child labor practices in the region have received wide media coverage.
Many large confectionery brands have made commitments to invest in sustainable and fair trade in the region, while consumer groups persist in pressuring others to do more.