Last month the Swiss chocolate manufacturer began training members of five farmer cooperatives in the Central region of Cameroon to enable them to become independently certified by the Rainforest Alliance. Approximately 1,000 farmers will receive training in the next 12 months. This is an extension of the existing collaboration between Barry Callebaut and the independent certification body, which began on the Ivory Coast in 2010.
"We see a great opportunity to start work with farmer organisations and producers in Cameroon who are interested in improving yields and quality by growing cocoa in a sustainable way," said Nicholas Camu, group manager of the 'Cocoa Horizons' initiative. "It's the first time these farmer groups are taking a serious look at the potential benefits of training to achieve certification."
Launched in March 2012, Cocoa Horizons is designed to boost farm productivity, increase quality and improve family livelihoods in key cocoa producing countries in West and Central Africa, Indonesia and Brazil over the next 10 years.
Barry Callebaut staff in Cameroon will deliver the training in Good Agricultural Practices and help to set up internal control systems and improve administrative procedures at the cooperatives.
"This ground-breaking and challenging new venture is the first comprehensive training programme to be launched in Cameroon with farmers who aspire to achieve the sustainability standards of Rainforest Alliance certification," said Eric Servat, senior manager of the Cocoa Programme at the Rainforest Alliance.
"This cooperation underscores our efforts to bring responsibly produced goods and services to a global marketplace where the demand for sustainability is growing steadily."
In June this year the president of Mars Chocolate UK, Fiona Dawson, issued a grim warning about "the bleak situation" of a serious global shortage of cocoa.
Speaking at the annual Camden BRI lecture, titled 'A Sustainable future?', Dawson said: "The global cocoa sector may suffer a 1Mt shortage by 2020 because of the increasing economic and environmental pressures on cocoa farms."
She called for moves to raise farmers' welfare to improve the sustainability of supplies.
"If the farmers at the start of the supply chain are in trouble, then ultimately so is the whole industry," she said.