West Africa Trip: Accra, Abidjan and Abuja
Entry: Bill Guyton, World Cocoa Foundation
Over the past two and half weeks, I was part of a small delegation traveling through West Africa to meet with cocoa farmers, government officials and project partners in Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire and Nigeria. It was encouraging to see the impact of programs in cocoa growing communities such as Bamba, Ghana where cocoa farmers recently graduated from one of the farmer field schools, sponsored by the World Cocoa Foundation and partners. With income earnings from cocoa, some of the cocoa farmers had installed a solar panel to provide lighting for the village in the evenings. Below, a farmer shows us dried beans which he recently harvested.
Not far from Bamba, our delegation visited the buying station of Olam International and then drove south to the Takaradi Port for a tour of the Ghana Cocoa Board’s quality control operations.
Photo: Testing for moisture content is part of the Ghana Cocoa Board's quality control operations.
This port currently ships 80 percent of the Ghana cocoa exports to cocoa consuming countries in bag and bulk form. The following day, we visited the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) in Tafu, to learn more about breeding research and integrated pest management systems being developed to help farmers reduce losses from diseases and pests. Back in Accra, the Ministry of Finance and the Ghana Cocoa Board hosted us for meetings at their offices. We also had a dinner reception with local industry members to learn more about some of the challenges and opportunities for the cocoa sector in Ghana.
From Accra, we flew to Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire where we had the honor to meet with the top leadership of the country. Honorable Ambassador Charles Koffi (Ambassador of Cote d'Ivoire to the United States) led our delegation to various ministry meetings, as well as to discussions with local industry members. The rest of our stay in Cote d’Ivoire was spent visiting cocoa farming communities in the Daloa region.
Photo: A farmer field school in Cote d'Ivoire.
We heard first hand about some of the achievements of our partnership programs and the many challenges facing cocoa farmers including lack of access to credit, poor roads, inadequate training/resources to strengthen farmer cooperatives. There were many good initiatives underway such as the Sustainable Tree Crops Program (STCP), ECHOES, Socodevi, and Rainforest Alliance .
During one of the stops, we heard how Mr. Kaku, a STCP participant, had increased his cocoa yield from 6 tons to 13 tons, as a result of access to fertilizers and improved farming practices. He had used his increased income earnings to renovate his house and to open a small shop in his village. He explained that the greatest difficulties he faces are access to microfinance and strategies for diversifying his farm to include other food and cash crops.
Our final stop in West Africa was to Abuja, Nigeria to attend the STCP Executive Committee Meeting which was held at the ECOWAS offices (roundtable photo). African delegates from Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Cameroon and Liberia were in attendance, along with the head of the Cocoa Producer’s Alliance, Mr. Sona Ebai. The chocolate industry and USAID also have seats on this committee. STCP plans to reach over 150,000 small scale cocoa farmers in the next three years, thanks to the on-the-ground support of the Institute of Tropical Agriculture and the various partners.
Photo: The STCP Executive Committee Meeting in Abuja.