On Valentine's Day, Reflecting on the Importance of Chocolate Production

Posted by Margaret Enis
February 14, 2012
Cocoa Buyer Examines Beans in Western Africa

They say the way to a person's heart is through their stomach. And whether you're enjoying the fruits (or beans!) of the world's cocoa harvest through your favorite candy bar during your afternoon snack, or receiving a heart-shaped box of cream-filled goodness for Valentine's Day today, it's worth considering how the delectable confection came to be in the first place -- and how supporting the industry can lead to increased global food security.

You might think that's quite a jump. But cocoa in West Africa contributes considerably to farmer livelihoods and national economies. Collectively, this region's 2 million smallholder cocoa farmers produce approximately 70 percent of the world's supply. With a projected strong, long-term demand, cocoa has great potential to increase these farmers' incomes. To do so significantly requires improving productivity to make cocoa farming more economically attractive and environmentally sustainable.

The U.S. government is supporting precisely these efforts with Feed the Future, President Obama's global hunger and food security initiative. Through a partnership between the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the World Cocoa Foundation and the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH), Feed the Future has embarked upon an alliance that will help alleviate poverty and increase farmer incomes in West Africa while strengthening government and regional institutions, advancing food security throughout the region.

Over its five-year lifespan, Feed the Future's Africa Cocoa Initiative (ACI) will leverage a total of $11 million in investments from its principal partners. It also includes private sector participation from key chocolate-producing companies, including ADM Cocoa, Barry Callebaut, Blommer Chocolate Company, Cargill, Continaf BV, Ferrero, Guittard Chocolate Company, The Hershey Company, Kraft Foods, Lindt & Sprungli, Nestle, Olam International Ltd., and Mars.

To create an environment where increased productivity is possible, the ACI is providing farmer productivity training, including disease and pest control, harvesting, drying, pruning and worker safety; introducing higher-yielding tree stock; and working with agro-dealer networks to improve access to fertilizer, inputs and extension support. The project also supports propagation of new clones and seed gardens adapted to West African soils. Ultimately, the ACI aims to double cocoa productivity and train 100,000 farmers.

So it's nice to keep in mind that, as you enjoy your chocolate treats today and all year long, there are long-term efforts in place to help those who made its production possible. And that's an idea we can all fall in love with.

Feed the Future is the U.S. government's global hunger and food security initiative. To learn more or to get involved, visit www.feedthefuture.gov.Editor's Note: This entry also appears on the USAID Impact Blog.



Rick L.
California, USA
February 14, 2012

Rick L. in California writes:

After many years of governmental doublespeak it's sometimes difficult to believe the language we hear coming out of our officials. For instance, it is unfortunately easy to imagine a name like "Feed the Future" being a euphemism for subsidies designed to increase the profits of multinational corporations, with little of value actually going toward the projects and people one might assume they are intended to help.

Regardless, I am happy to hear this kind of thinking coming from my government. Taking a systems approach is, in my opinion (and that of many far more famous and astute than I) it is the best way to ensure a good chance of success, as it considers the long term effects and consequences of one's actions. Thank you for this account.

John P.
February 14, 2012

John P. in Greece writes:

I don’t know if its chocolates, or flowers, or whatever...

Love is about Love!

You never want to wake up the next morning, feeling bad for your night choices…

Love is love!

Massachusetts, USA
February 14, 2012

Maureen in Massachusetts writes:

Happy Valentine's Day but...

A creative and informative post but it brought to mind the unfortunate subject of child trafficking in chocolate production.

It would be interesting to discuss this topic and whether production budgets set aside funds to combat trafficking?

Bernard R.
New York, USA
February 24, 2012

Bernard R. in New York writes:

As I have experienced in Africa and here in the US, Hillary administration and Obama's government are strongly supporting France to recolonize and to terrorize the African Continents: currently Madagascar.


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