How a new campaign seeks to ensure a future for cocoa production in Ghana, a chocolate epicenter

Ghana is the second largest producer and exporter of cocoa beans, after Côte d’Ivoire. One campaign wants to make sure that cacao farming remains a productive source of income for Ghanaian farmers, and of tasty treats for chocolate lovers, long into the future. 

Farmers work on a cocoa farm on Nov. 11, 2015, in Akyekyere, Ghana.

According to research at the University of Reading, cocoa contributes between 70 to 100 percent of Ghanaian farmers’ annual household income and employs about 3.2 million workers there. Ghana is the second largest producer and exporter of cocoa beans, after Côte d’Ivoire. Taking place in Accra, Ghana, Chocothon’s short-term goal is to identify low-tech solutions to reduce sustainability challenges. However, the collaborative initiative also has several other objectives. It aims to assure a sustainable cocoa supply from cultivation to consumption, empower Ghanaian cocoa farmers, and create new opportunities for smallholders and other value chain stakeholders.

On January 18, Chocothon’s Phase 1, Mission 1 will kick off with a three-day conference series. These conferences will share knowledge about three main topics: current cocoa farming practices in Ghana, the International Trade Centre (ITC) tools, and available tech solutions to include Ghanaian cocoa farmers in the supply chain. Parts two and three of Phase 1 will take place from January 21 to 25 to connect stakeholders and empower producers. See the schedule of events here.

This initiative was created as a platform for sustainable Ghanaian cocoa supply chains by Google Food Team, the Future Food Institute (FFI), and the International Trade Centre (ITC) with knowledge support from Business School Lausanne (BSL). Other partners hope to achieve progress toward sustainable production by gathering stakeholders, enriching community development, and benefiting chocolate lovers everywhere, from farmer to consumers.

“Chocolate makes people happy. It cannot be that this product ceases to exist due to unsustainable farming and sourcing practices. Technology will enhance traceability in sourcing cocoa and be transforming for a better future for all stakeholders in the entire value chain,” says Thomas Camenzind of Google Food Team.

Joy Thaler, the founder of CocoaCompassion, a social enterprise collaborating with smallholder cocoa farmers, can attest to the shift towards more sustainable cocoa production. “There is an increasing commitment to reducing deforestation and mono-cropping high-yield, hybrid cacao which excessively deplete and erode the soil and contaminate local water sources that critically serve millions of smallholder cacao farming families living in the narrow swath of land 20 degrees North and South where cacao grows,” she says. “Sustainable cacao farming is focused on land revitalization, planting genetically diverse, high-quality cacao seedlings, and local vertical market integration.”

During the three-day conference series, Chocothon will address some of the sustainability constraints to production in Ghana. A publication in Sustainable Agriculture Research specifies some obstacles Ghanaian cocoa farmers experience: widespread deforestation, limited access to improved crop varieties, and plantations in use for more than 30 years that need rejuvenation. These challenges hinder productivity and are exacerbated by a climate change phenomena that have created economic uncertainty for farmers.

Chocothon seeks to improve the cocoa supply chain to reduce greenhouse gasses and increase yields. By bringing together Ghanaian software and application developers with supply chain experts, Chocothon hopes to create innovative agricultural tech solutions. Another goal is to build public online and offline tools to engage and interest Ghanaian young people with technology expertise relating to cocoa production.

The project spans nine months and will cross the globe, bringing together farmers, international cocoa suppliers, partner organizations and outside participants to join forces. Chocothon will empower and connect the Ghanaian cocoa farmers to promote a sustainable cocoa supply chain.

To support Chocothon visit Crowdfooding, a food and beverage crowdfunding platform. Alessio D’Antino, the Founder and CEO of Crowdfooding says, “Chocolate is at the edge of extinction, and we’re very thrilled to support Chocothon in the endeavor of helping cocoa farmers to leverage technology to manage their harvesting better and improve their quality of work. In line with the open spirit of Chocothon, I firmly believe we can harness the power of the crowd to empower any individual to do their share to keep enjoying our beloved chocolate.”

Additional Chocothon events are scheduled for May 22 to 26 as well as August 28 to September 1, 2017.

This story originally appeared on Food Tank.

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