- Fourteen West and Central African countries along with cocoa industry leaders have finalised a first-ever sustainable cocoa farming plan for Africa, which is also aimed at eradicating poverty.
Endorsed by Ghana's president John Kufuor, finance, agriculture and commerce ministers from 14 African nations, as well as other stakeholders such as scientists, farmers, donor organisations and other experts, have adopted a plan designed to help cocoa farmers to increase their income by growing trees that are of higher quality, more resistant to disease and drought, and consume fewer natural resources.
This is first inter-governmental pledge of its kind and could be of enormous significance to more than two million cocoa farmers in Africa, where 70 percent of the world's cocoa is grown, reports quoted participants.
"The need to transform and modernise our agriculture practices has never been greater," said Ghana president Kufuor. "I look forward to leading the effort to implement the new consensus plan, one which helps our farmers not only survive, but flourish under the challenging economic situation we face currently. It is my hope that the sustainable cocoa plan will serve as a model for other commodities farmers in Ghana and throughout Africa," he added.
The symposium hosted by government of Ghana in collaboration with Cocoa Producers Alliance (COPAL), and co-sponsored by governments of Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, Liberia and Togo, was titled "Theobroma Cacao: The Tree of Change," and was third in a biennial series sponsored by Mars.
Previous meetings were held in conjunction with national academies, the latest being first held in partnership with African Science Academies.
The event also brought to center stage role of science towards a sustainable regional and world cocoa economy, which includes sustainable cocoa production, socio-economic development through more profitable incomes for farmers, and that ensures right environmental foundation remains in place to meet tomorrow's demand.
"The consensus plan will have a real impact on the day-to-day lives of cocoa farmers throughout Africa," said G. Gyan-Balfour, Ghana's deputy minister of finance. "The measures and infrastructure we have committed to should make it possible for farmers to increase their cocoa production in the near future, and will ensure that cocoa can be farmed from these lands for generations to come. The potential benefit to cocoa farmers is great, and will help strengthen families and communities throughout the region," he also added.
Penned down its a 30-year vision for cocoa industry which identifies specific steps necessary to achieve its goals, including, creating avenues for effective transfer of scientific information, technology and funding.
The vision also seeks to establish systems that make advances in cocoa science easily adaptable on the farmer level and provide information channels that will reach farmers with pertinent updates on current market prices.
Government collaboration was also identified as key, to ensure farmers get a greater portion of the price for cacao, while also integrating research outcomes into vastly expanded extension services developed in innovative, community-based and scalable ways.
As part of plan, projected outcome will include, thriving rural communities based on increased entrepreneurial activities building on improved infra-structure, trade, nutrition and health and education.
Plan also will thrive for recognition of African producers by chocolate manufacturers and consumers as consistently producing high quality cocoa, while at the same time working towards transformation of cocoa farming from subsistence to entrepreneurial models, that takes care of environmental concerns.
Meeting also made a huge commitment to ploughing back some of the cocoa farming incomes towards meeting Millennium Development Goal targets through increased productivity and diversification of income streams.
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