Entry: Ms. Menimo Tonka, Agricultural Research Institute for Development (IRAD), Cameroon
I recently attended the Second World Agroforestry Symposium at CATIE (Costa Rica). The World Cocoa Foundation sponsored my participation. Very important research issues were addressed such as biodiversity, productivity of associated crops, ecosystem services, certification schemes and their impacts as well as other products derived from agroforestry and their socio-economic importance. Looking at these diverse research findings, for the sake of making the cocoa sector sustainable, research activities should be more participatory and include the farmer from the beginning to the end of the process since they are those applying the final results in the field with the hope of improving on their productivity.
The symposium tour at Talamanca was very enriching because I got the opportunity to discuss with farmers who are organised in cooperatives and are successful in their production and marketing strategies despite some challenges. Considering the fact that since 2003 I am working on the socio-economic aspects of cocoa based family farms as well as organisations of cocoa farmers in the Centre province of Cameroon, these farmers know how to produce very good cocoa. But the main problem is at the marketing level. If any thing has to be done by the chocolate industry and partners to improve on the social and economic aspects of these cocoa producers in Cameroon, it would be to buy quality cocoa at good prices in order to encourage the farmers. Indeed, since the liberalization of the cocoa market, there is no price differentiation and thus farmers producing good quality are not rewarded in return. Cocoa exporters want good quality cocoa, but they are not ready to pay for the good quality cocoa.
For this problem to be solved, chocolate industries and partners should endeavour to re-institute the grading of cocoa at the farm level for producers to be paid objectively according to their grades. This would encourage farmers to produce good quality cocoa and thus improve on their socioeconomic status.
Photo: Ms. Menimo Tonka with farmers and field investigators in Centre Province, Cameroon.