Cocoa productivity and quality improvement: A participatory approach – Phase II

Published on 22 June 2010

Research Areas

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Start Date: 9 September 2004 | End Date: 9 December 2010


Producing more than 95% of all cocoa, more than 10-million poor, smallholder rural families depend on cocoa for their income. Paradoxically, ‘bulk cocoa’ is the major part of the world cocoa production supplying a largely undifferentiated, commoditised market that keeps prices low. However, demand for fine-flavour added-value cocoa is steadily increasing. Fine flavour cocoa products depend largely on the genetic make-up of cocoa varieties.

The project has aimed to contribute to the welfare of these smallholders cultivating cocoa, through higher and more sustainable productivity levels of good quality cocoa, at lower production costs. The project contributes to this objective through selection, distribution and use of new cocoa varieties with improved yielding capacity, resistance and quality traits. Use of improved cocoa planting material makes cocoa cultivation more competitive and more attractive to new generations of cocoa farmers. It facilitates diversification of cocoa-based farming systems by reducing land, labour and cash requirements for cocoa cultivation.

The General Objectives include:

(1)                 To validate promising cocoa varieties in farmers’ fields through participatory approaches, involving farmers directly in the evaluation and selection process;

(2)                 To increase sustainability in cocoa crop improvement programmes through validation and dissemination of selected cocoa varieties between project partners, through enhanced regional and international collaborative research and development activities, and through capacity building;

(3)                 To exchange information and disseminate results among all project partners and also outside the project;

(4)                 To establish and maintain functional linkages between national cocoa breeding programmes, international cocoa gene-banks and quarantine centres and international cocoa research and development efforts.

This recently completed CFC/ICCO/Bioversity project has shown the feasibility to collaborate in cocoa breeding through the use of similar approaches and exchange of information. The farmers’ participatory approach applied in the project has allowed for the farmers to be involved directly in the selection of new varieties. In the on-farm trials breeders’ selections are being compared to farm selections. This way it is hoped that the farmers adopt the best materials as shown in their own conditions.

At all project sites, numerous clone and hybrid varieties have been selected for further use in breeding. In four countries new candidate varieties were selected that can be recommended for distribution to farmers. Rapid and/or early resistance screening methods have been validated and successfully adopted for Ppr, while screening for resistance to other diseases and pests continues to rely mainly on field evaluations. The International Clone Trial (ICT), planted at eight sites, has yielded important information on stability of agronomic, disease resistance, physiologic and quality traits. The relative stability of these traits over sites suggests that evaluations made at one site will be of value also at other sites. This underpins the value of collaborative approaches in cocoa breeding, e.g. such as the germplasm evaluation and enhancement programmes carried out in Trinidad and in Costa Rica.

Several of the activities initiated in the project are still ongoing. Such is the case for the on-farm trials and for the Regional Variety Trials. It is expected that these trials can be continued within the local breeding programmes. New collaborative initiatives are however required to continue with the pre-breeding programmes and with the distribution of selected materials. The distribution of accessions with resistance to monilia and to witches’ broom to Africa should continue to be a major objective. Major constraints in cocoa production, such as destructive diseases and pests, vary between the regions (continents). Therefore, continued regional cooperation would be of great value in overcoming these constraints.

The work is mainly financed by the Common Fund for Commodities (CFC), via the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO), with additional support provided by: the Cocoa Research Association (CRA), UK; CIRAD, France; the Guittard Chocolate Company, USA; Mars Inc., UK & USA ; the USDA and the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF), USA

Research Partners


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One Response to “Cocoa productivity and quality improvement: A participatory approach – Phase II”

  1. Alphonse Parpa says:

    I am from Papua New Guinea – one of the countries in the world that produces cocoa.

    Could you please send some information about the best Cocoa Markets in the world that I can export cocoa in large quantities directly every year without going through the “middlemen” to sell cocoa?

    Thank you

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