On Thursday, 24 June, CIAT took part in the official launch of the project Cocoa for Peace at the home of the US ambassador to Colombia, Kevin Whitaker, in Bogotá. Over the next 5 years, this initiative will seek to enhance the cocoa value chain – as part of Colombia’s post-conflict development strategy – by strengthening the public and private sector institutions that are key for production of this crop. Through collaborative research, technical assistance, and education – using resources and tools that these institutions obtain from the project – Colombia will be able to take advantage more rapidly of growing global demand for chocolate and become a significant global producer.

Photo taken from US Embassy

Strengthening and expanding the cocoa industry is critical for Colombia’s post-conflict development, as this will generate major economic opportunities, providing alternatives to the production of illicit crops for smallholder producers in areas of the country most affected by armed conflict. These are precisely the areas that are richest in biodiversity and most suited for production of high-quality cocoa varieties.

Cocoa for Peace

The Cocoa for Peace project is being promoted by the US Embassy in Colombia through the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) in collaboration with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC),the Colombian Corporation of Agricultural Research (Corpoica), the Peace Corps, the Fullbright program, the International Center of Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Colombia´s National Training Service (SENA)and a consortiuim of nine US land-grant universities – among them Purdue University, with which CIAT is working most directly.

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During the project’s first year, CIAT’s Linking farmers to markets research team will contribute to work on two topics:

1. Identifying leverage points in the cocoa value chain in three regions of the country. These are located in the Sierra Nevada, which extends from Aracataca, Magdalena, to Dibulla in La Guajira; in Santander, including San Vicente de Chucurí, El Carmen de Chucurí, and Rionegro; and in northern Cauca, encompassing the municipalities of Corinto, Padilla, Villa Rica, Santander de Quilichao, Puerto Tejada, and Guachené, among others. The team will carry out this part of the project with Purdue University in the USA and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), using the methodology described as follows:

  • Identification of actors in the cocoa value chain with national partners, including the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MADR), the Technical Secretariat of the Cocoa Production Chain in MADR’s  Directorate for Production Chains, community and regional councils, the National Federation of Cocoa Producers (Fedecacao), producer associations, farmers, indigenous reserves, regional intermediaries, traditional cocoa buyers (such as CasaLuker and Compañía Nacional de Chocolates), exporters of high-quality cocoa (e.g., Cacao Hunters and Mariana Cacao Export), public and private universities, government institutions, international development agencies  (e.g., Swisscontact), and firms such as TetraTech ARD and Chemonics International, among others.
  • Compilation of secondary information on the sector from databases in public and private institutions as well as from previous national initiatives, regional analyses, and completed projects.
  • Semi-structured interviews with key actors in the production chain and visits to producing regions for workshops with focus groups.
  • Periodic debates and discussions with national experts to analyze the information compiled.
  • Preparation of a preliminary document.
  • A feedback workshop with value chain actors to share achievements as well as review and adjust primary information and the interpretation of secondary information.

The land-grant universities include

the University of California (Davis), Cornell University,  University of Florida, Michigan State University, New Mexico State University, Pennsylvania State University, Purdue University, Texas A&M University, and Washington State University.

(Photo by: Fernando Rodriguez)

2. Modelling climate suitability to project medium- and long-term changes under new emissions scenarios. These estimates will complement soil maps indicating levels of cadmium, which are being developed by researchers with the Colombian Corporation of Agricultural Research (Corpoica). For this purpose, the team is using the methodology described below:

  1. Review of previous studies about climate effects on cocoa production
  2. Review of climate change projections for Colombia
  3. Identification of the algorithmic model
  4. Interpretation of modelling results
  5. Contextualizing the results
  6. Comparing information with results from Corpoica maps
U

Cadmium

is a natural chemical element present in cocoa grains. These may be rejected for export if high levels of the element are detected.

These two tasks in which CIAT takes part will make it possible to determine which areas are likely to be most suitable for cocoa production in the years to come and provide a clear basis for building the strategy needed to strengthen the cocoa value chain in Colombia. The most important step in the process will be the collective development of this strategy with actors directly involved in the cocoa chain.

The second part of this blog post, to be published soon, will report advances in putting together the puzzle of cocoa production in Colombia.

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