New program to help cocoa farmers adapt to threat of climate change

By Vince Bamford

- Last updated on GMT

Program will aim to tackle impact of climate change. Photo: iStock - BenGoode
Program will aim to tackle impact of climate change. Photo: iStock - BenGoode

Related tags World cocoa foundation Weather Climate change

Businesses including Barry Callebaut, Mars and Nestlé are part of a new program designed to help cocoa farmers adapt to the threat of climate change.

Announced this week, the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) initiative will aim to strengthen collaboration between the public and private sector and brings together economic development organization ACDI/VOCA, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and leading chocolate and cocoa companies.

Described by WCF as an “unprecedented effort involving numerous stakeholders across the cocoa value chain,”​ the program will aim to develop solutions to climate and weather variability and deforestation that poses a threat to smallholder cocoa farmers, national economies of cocoa producing countries, and the global cocoa and chocolate industry.

According to the foundation, climate modeling suggests various regions may need to change crops and cropping strategies or alter management practices if they are to maintain viable livelihoods and cocoa supply.

Supporting private sector partners

USAID and ACDI/VOCA will support private sector partners to develop a common strategy to address the impact of climate on cocoa, and develop innovations to help farmers adapt to changing weather patterns. This is set to include research and development of climate-resilient planting material, improved farming practices and new agroforestry models.

The program will also look at the challenge of deforestation in cocoa growing regions, and will work with experts including the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).

WCF program

World Cocoa Foundation member companies involved in the partnership include:

  • Barry Callebaut
  • Cargill
  • Ecom Agrotrade
  • The Hershey Company
  • Lindt & Sprüngli
  • Mars, Inc.
  • Nestlé
  • Olam International Ltd
  • Touton

Climate change will have significant impact on cocoa in West Africa, with the majority of effects forecast to occur by 2030, according to Mark Lundy, CIAT theme leader on linking farmers to markets.

Collective investment plans

This means cacao planted today will need to adapt to changing rainfall patterns as well as higher temperatures during its productive lifespan​,” he added. “This new initiative is critical because it inserts solid climate projections for cocoa into private sector decision-making processes, and prioritizes collective investment plans to ensure a resilient cocoa sector​.”

Addressing the issue now will build the foundation for a strong private sector platform, said WCF acting president Tim McCoy, who announced the program at the Frontiers in Science and Technology for Cacao Quality, Productivity and Sustainability meeting held this week at Penn State college of agriculture.

Investing in climate-smart cocoa is a critical step in ensuring greater sustainability in the cocoa sector and positions our industry to respond to the realities of climate change​,” he added.

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