ZURICH, SWITZERLAND — Barry Callebaut is establishing a 1 million Swiss franc ($1.05 million) Center of Cocoa Excellence to promote advanced agricultural techniques in Cote d'Ivoire, the world’s largest cocoa producing country. The Center will include training facilities for farmers and a 30-hectare “showcase farm” to demonstrate intercropping techniques and other yield enhancement practices such as grafting to rejuvenate aging cocoa farms and double farm productivity.

The Center of Cocoa Excellence will be located in Pacobo in the Department of Tiassale in the south-central cocoa growing area of Cote d'Ivoire. The center, which will be a cornerstone of Barry Callebaut’s “Cocoa Horizons” global sustainability initiative, is scheduled to be operational in October.

Barry Callebaut said the “showcase farm” will be used to test different approaches for growing cocoa with other crops. Some of the crops that will be planted alongside cocoa trees on the farm include: plantain, coconut, mango, pineapple, beans and maize, as well as rubber and others. Shade trees also will be planted.

“This effort reflects the importance of promoting biodiversity — planting other food crops and shade trees in addition to cocoa — on smallholder farms,” said Anke Massart, project leader for Cocoa Horizons in Cote d'Ivoire. “An abundant variety of plants and trees simulates the natural diversity found in the rainforest and results in a healthy ecosystem. This, in turn, means more productive cocoa trees.”
In addition to the “showcase farm,” the Center of Cocoa Excellence also will include a building with a classroom, nurseries of cocoa and shade trees as well as fermentation and drying facilities. Beginning in October, the Center at Pacobo will offer training to selected farmers from about 20 cooperatives currently participating in BC’s sustainability and certification activities.