Recent reports say that the need for government and sector players to bring together cocoa producers and chocolate consumers for the purpose of cross-fertilisation and exchange of ideas, was the kernel of discussion, during the official launch of the International Cocoa Diplomacy (ICD), in London.
The event, founded by the Oloni of Eti-Oni, Osun State, His Royal Majesty, Oba Dokun Thompson, and which was held at the prestigious Royal Overseas League House in St James’s with the theme: Building Bridges for Transformation and Shared Value, attracted top government officials, diplomats from Africa and the Caribbean region, with members of the global chocolate consumption nations, as well as those from the arts and entertainment sectors.
Gboyega Alabi, the Deputy Governor of Osun State, and Chief Host, revealed that Eti-Oni holds the status of the oldest Cocoa Plantation in Nigeria, noting that the event was a great convergence of immense socio-economic importance and value.
Mr. Alabi underscored the importance of the coming together of cocoa producers and chocolate consumers for the purpose of cross-fertilisation and exchange of ideas, including the application of advanced technology and innovation to boost production capacity towards improved economic cooperation and useful bilateral relations between emerging economies in Africa and advanced economies of the West.
Ms. Dela Akuffo, the Director, of Corporate Communications of ICD, in her introduction of ICD and what led to its founding, cautioned that the death of cocoa trees will not only affect the producing communities but would actually be a global economic crisis that could only be prevented by the bridging of the gap between cocoa production and consumption.
This, while giving the narrative of what cocoa meant to her as a kid, growing up in Ghana with a grandfather who was a big cocoa farmer, she shared how the system that was once enviable and worked was now broken and must be rebuilt to uplift the producing communities and restore hope in the lives of the farmers through the planned and varied programmes, events and activities of ICD across the globe.
At this auspicious event, the cocoa industry was well represented and led by the Executive Director, of Cocoa Research Institute, Dr. Patrick Adebola, while the Chocolate Industry was represented by the Chairman of the Academy of Chocolate UK, Chantal Coady, OBE, and Founder of Cocovaa Chocolatiers of Wisconsin, USA, Ms. Vata Edari.
Furthermore, Dr. Adebola spoke extensively on the challenges faced by cocoa farmers and the need to encourage the younger generation not to shy away from cocoa production. He made a strong appeal to ICD to get all stakeholders across the value chain to revamp the industry.
Dr. Adebola also mentioned the achievements of the institute in the value addition areas with the development of different end products from cocoa and the new series of cocoa seedlings developed over the years, which are pest resistant, with improved flavour and short gestation periods to help with boosting cocoa production output in the country.
He closed his remarks on the Living Income Differential discussion for farmers by the Ghana and Ivory Coast Cocoa Initiative, which he hoped Nigeria and Cameroon would adopt as he implored ICD to engage in the discussion of getting better deals for the farmers.
Delivering his address, Oba Thompson, who thanked everyone for their participation and contributions, recalled that the International Cocoa Organisation, (ICCO) was established simply to advance the local economy of cocoa-producing regions.
Thompson said after over 40 years of its establishment, the story had been the same in the regions and was partly the very reason ICD was established for a bottom-to-top approach with the need to understand that there are two sides of the industry – the production and consumption sides with a huge gap between them that require bridging.
Continuing, the monarch then stated that, ICD was committed to bridging that gap for the transformational purpose that would eventually lead to the sustainable production of cocoa by farmers who, through the several programmes, will have their self-worth and dignity restored with the new generation embracing cocoa farming with pride.
The monarch stressed further that ICD was not just about events but was already in preliminary discussion with Cocoa Resesrch Institute of Nigeria (CRIN) in the area of the development of protocols for organic farming and the introduction of organic pesticides to help convert the current conventional cocoa farms to organic!,production techniques.
Duting the event, the discussion also featured the development of audit protocols and training of farmers towards a well-rounded and thorough sustainability label with consideration for traceability concerns, child labour, deforestation and environmental issues carried out by those who have a full understanding of the production terrain, the work ethics, as well as culture and good knowledge of these communities.