Barry Callebaut has announced the inauguration of the Cocoa Horizons Truck. A multi-purpose mobile unit with modern communication equipment powered by solar energy, it provides space for farmer training sessions in good agricultural practices, basic health care services, literacy training and child labour sensitisation programs. The truck is part of Barry Callebaut’s plan to significantly step up the impact and reach of its Quality Partner Program (QPP), a cocoa farming program which is an integral part of the company’s 10-year Cocoa Horizons sustainability initiative.
The Cocoa Horizons Truck was equipped in Belgium and shipped to Côte d’Ivoire in 2013. It started its maiden voyage in December 2013 with its first stop in Vridi, Abidjan.
On its first stop, the truck attracted not only cocoa farmers, but in total over 300 villagers who were curious to hear about cocoa farming practices. 70 people benefitted from free medical consultations and received common medicines. To date, about 800 villagers attended and 143 people received medical attention.
The team onboard the truck includes Barry Callebaut’s own farmer training experts. Depending on the needs of the community, a nurse is also on board to provide basic health care, such as vaccination programs and educational services. The Cocoa Horizons Truck started its journey from Abidjan, rolling northwest towards the cocoa farming community of Tolakro, near Tiassalé. It will visit one village after another, staying for about two days at a time. Part of the pilot program is to assess the needs of each community and to adapt the truck’s training program where necessary.
“As many cocoa farmers cannot read, training takes place in the form of movies and theatre sketches, with the truck serving as a stage,” said Hervé Beerens,who is responsible for the Cocoa Horizons Truck project. “This kind of entertaining training format is very effective and will help close the knowledge gaps farmers have in good agricultural practices.”
“As part of our Cocoa Horizons activities we already have more than 50 Barry Callebaut employees on the ground who are directly working with more than 30,000 farmers,” said Nicholas Camu, Barry Callebaut’s group manager Cocoa Horizons. The company inaugurated its Cocoa Center of Excellence in Pacobo, Côte d’Ivoire in July 2013 to train 300 farm school trainers and cooperative managers annually, in addition to serving as a research and development centre for modern agricultural practices and demonstrating best practice on showcase plots. This knowledge is then cascaded down from the Cocoa Center of Excellence.
Farmers also gain knowledge about good agricultural practices through Barry Callebaut’s twelve model farms and 575 farmer field schools and – as of today – with the Cocoa Horizons Truck.
Furthermore, Barry Callebaut is introducing technology to farmers to improve the cocoa bean fermentation process, resulting in higher-quality beans that have fewer defects and bring the farmer a premium.
“With the Cocoa Horizons Truck, we have scaled up our activities in order to accelerate our drive towards a more sustainable cocoa sector. We are convinced that a multi-purpose mobile unit such as the Cocoa Horizons Truck is the ideal way of providing support to thousands of additional of cocoa farmers. At the end of the one-year pilot phase we will evaluate the impact of the truck. If everything works according to plan, we intend to increase the number of trucks successively. We expect to reach 7,000 more cocoa farmers across Côte d’Ivoire this year.”