Capacity development for a strong, sustainable and reliable cocoa supply base

Published on
January 11, 2016

International course organised by the Centre for Development Innovation in cooperation with Food World Research and Consultancy and Solidaridad in The Netherlands, and strategic counterpart organisations overseas, to train professionals all along the Cocoa Value Chain.

Why a training course for capacity development of professionals in the Cocoa Value Chain

To enhance good practices, reverse dwindling production and build a strong, sustainable and reliable supply base in the cocoa value chain, capacity development in the sector is essential. At present, in many regions where the primary production is taking place the capacity available to bring about the switch to more sustainable, inclusive and economically profitable cocoa production seems to be rather fragmented and too limited, in spite of many good initiatives of many stakeholders whereas  further downstream in the value chain capacity is low to contribute to inclusive sector transformation of the cocoa sector. Sustainability is not fully integrated yet into businesses, but proper responses to the need for commitment, engagement and investment are sought.

It’s in everyone business to stay in business. But how can all players – from bean to bar – stay in business in a sustainable manner? And how can you from your point of view in the value chain, contribute to this inclusive sector transformation? So that for futures to come, chocolate can remain an affordable luxury and for many farmers growing cocoa will become a good livelihood?

Together, companies and organisations all along the cocoa value chain (in production, input supply, quality control, trade, processing and marketing) can benefit from and contribute to a comprehensive training programme to boost their staff’s capacity, which will result in the creation of a strong sustainable and reliable cocoa supply base embedded in the local context thus combining the economic goals with corporate social responsibility of their enterprises.

The situation in the cocoa sector

At present the sustainability of the cocoa production is low (in 2013, 16% of global cocoa production was certified). Productivity and quality of cocoa suffer from pest and diseases, production is scattered over many smallholders, who supply modest production volumes per farm. Soil fertility is decreasing, and farmers hardly plant new cocoa trees to replace or upgrade existing stands. Instead, they tend to replace cocoa by rubber trees and oil palms, these being more lucrative commodities. Moreover, while cocoa farmers are aging, youngsters are looking for employment or business opportunities beyond agriculture.

Worldwide there is growing demand for cocoa, and consumers are increasingly concerned about environmental impacts of cocoa production (deforestation, loss of biodiversity, declining soil fertility), and labour conditions (like health risks of handling agro-chemicals, child labour). Commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility, ethical sourcing and sustainable production have grown in importance and nowadays actors all along the Cocoa Value Chain must take these issues into account.

Companies like Mars, Ferrero, Mondelez and traders and processors like Cargill and ECOM publically announced their commitment to sustainability. Public private partnerships like the Sustainable Trade Initiative and  the World Cocoa Foundation and governments from both producing and consuming countries signed national and international agreements (like the Abidjan declaration) committing themselves to work towards sustainability with the private sector, NGOs and knowledge institutes.

Need for a comprehensive approach

Cocoa production can become an attractive business case for  smallholders, by applying a more integrated approach where barriers are lowered to access affordable services, inputs, land  and credit whilst increasing productivity and quality of cocoa production. Linkages to community development to become economically thriving and sustainability of landscapes are also becoming more and more of an important factor for cocoa farming as an attractive livelihood.

This approach also addresses empowerment of smallholders and  skills development that surpasses the scope of only better and higher cocoa production. Interventions to properly deal with such issues require business models in which the private sector takes a more prominent role, and organisations and companies providing support to the farmers growing cocoa should upgrade the quality and/or the scope of their services.

A training course for capacity development in the cocoa sector

Goal of this course is to achieve a higher level of impact, promotion of inclusive sector transformation, in particular sustainable production of cocoa, by building the competence and capacity of the professional staff of the organisations and companies involved through working based on the following perspectives:

  • Application of a sector and value chain focus and its contribution to inclusive local economic development, to complement the more usual focus on production;
  • Use of a Farm systems perspective in sync with the Industrial perspective;
  • Situating capacity development in its regional context by interactive, utilization-focused learning
  • Combined attention for personal development with functional development in expertise areas related to sustainable cocoa production and inclusive sector transformation.

Course content

The course content will zoom in on acquisition of knowledge and skills in four broad an inter-related areas: Production Technology, Value Chain Development, Integrating sustainability in daily operations/Business and Rural Development.

Trainee profile

This course is primarily - although not exclusively - meant for mid-career professionals with at least 5 years of practical work experience working in:

  1. Business Development and Support Services directly supporting and servicing cocoa farmers, businesses and other groups involved in the Cocoa Value chain (Local Buying Companies, Producer Business Companies, farmer based organisations, Regional Service Centres, NGOs, public and private extension services, in-house corporate staff); and
  2. Staff from companies in the Cocoa Supply Chain in charge of purchasing, marketing and CSR (traders, agronomists, business officers, national and regional sustainability officers,  end-manufacturers, retail) who indirectly support cocoa farmers, businesses and other target stakeholders in the cocoa value chain.

In the second and third module the programme focusses on refining the initial action plan and its implementation. During these modules tailored training is offered to handle obstacles one encounters in putting ideas into action. Brokering and creating access to relevant networks in the industry, national cocoa boards, scientific institutes and relevant sources of information and support is a key component in the programme. Roughly the programme consists of 20% theory, 40% sector exposure (value chain, key facts and figures) and 40% action and practice through case studies and building an actionplan.