Friday, September 24, 2010


While there exist cocoa research centers, they focus on horticultural and genetic questions relating to sustainable growing of cocoa; such centers are mainly populated by PhDs. There are no centers that cater to undergraduate and graduate students who study the sustainability of the cocoa-growing village. This brochure has described an organization that supervises the development of 17 cocoa study centers that are used by participating institutions in the developing and developed worlds.


Villagers would benefit from constant contact with university students. Benefits might include:

1. Cultural exposure: villagers make friends, increasing the probability of village children finding educational opportunities overseas.

2. Long-term development independent of the immediate project: just as with the Peace Corps, students in the program make long-lasting friendships that may lead to development opportunities outside the scope of this program.

3. Learning from other cocoa farmers. There is the possibility of finding funding for cocoa farmers to travel to other cocoa study centers. For example, a Ghanaian farmer might spend 2 weeks in Ecuador, learning about eco-tourism possibilities.

4. Developing familiarity with the cocoa value chain: the study centers would help villagers realize that they are not separated from the market. As a result, they would develop a less fatalistic view of their future commercial relationships.

5. Development of commercial relationships with urban centers (i.e., cottage industry.)


1. Access to clean water. Wells are often contaminated or villagers obtain their water from streams and rivers. This leads to often fatal waterborne diseases.

Siting and Construction of a Well Are Critical to Village Health

2. Access to markets: villages are often located on rutted roads that are impassable to all but the largest trucks. Bicycles help farmers get their product from farm to village and even to market.

Two-Year-Old Cocoa Tree on its Way to Join a Cocoa Grove

3. Value chain: because villagers have a hard time traveling to larger population centers, they rely on middlemen (pisteurs) who can afford the trucks to get their products to market. And buying agents (or Licensed Buying Companies in Ghana) purchase from the middlemen. And local companies, usually located at the ports, process beans into semi-finished product (liquor, butter, and powder.)
Karim Bandre, Pisteur in the Village of Batteguedea

4. Permaculture: it is possible to blend types of plants and architecture to blend beauty and functionality. How useful is neem to health of farmers and plants? What other tropical products might be grown inside the village that might have utility?

Neem Oil Has Great Utility and Can be Grown in Villages

5. Organic agriculture: cocoa farmers stand to benefit from selling their beans on the organic market. Avoiding the use of petrochemicals has a positive environmental payback.

Organic Cocoa Beans Fetch $150 More Per Metric Ton

6. Diversification: palm oil, rice, gari, plantains, dried coconut, African yams, cashews, and Robusta coffee are alternate agricultural products that stand to improve the profitability of the cocoa farmer.
Gari, Fermented, Dried, and Ready for Sale

7. Food Technology: leveraging current village expertise into profit centers might involve construction of buildings and installation of machinery that will produce marketable product for sale outside the village. Building laboratories in which farmers learn to correlate fermentation methods with quality of end product (e.g., TCHO FlavorLab™).
TCHO FlavorLab™

8. Appropriate technologies: incorporation of simple photovoltaic systems for lighting; improvement of sanitary facilities; ensuring a safe water supply; chilling systems for preservation of vegetables and fruits.
Justin Alvarez Designs a Small Photovoltaic System

9. Nutrition: Role of social rank in access to nutrient-dense foods. Role of sauces in providing complex carbohydrates, minerals, and vitamins.

Assignment of kitchen duties in the family unit.

10. Architecture: as a village gains economically, how does it change aesthetically? In Ghana, farmers who are more successful economically tend to build with concrete blocks. Are there more beautiful alternatives? How can a cocoa study center be useful to the community while also housing students and a laboratory?

11. Cottage Industry: today, the cocoa business remains colonial in nature. Cocoa farmers still think of the beans as a cash crop, producing value only at the time of sale to some middleman, never considering the value of the product itself. This situation can change, as tropical farmers join the world of commerce and actually produce chocolate.

Not long ago, making chocolate was the purview of the capitalists, as the machinery was of necessity large and expensive. This is no longer the case, and small companies such as Cacao Cucina are manufacturing machines that make chocolate production possible.

Every cocoa study center will include a small factory that can produce hundreds of chocolate bars per day as well as molded and filled chocolates. Individual farmers and visiting students can develop products here for sale in nearby towns.


Universities are ideal partners for forming a consortium of participating institutions that see it in their interest to develop these centers. It is envisioned that one university would serve as the host institution where an office would be maintained to coordinate usage of these centers.

Each center would be capable of housing 10 students/faculty and could be occupied year-round.
Participating institutions would establish 400-level courses that serve as capstones in their curricula. These courses could be jointly taught with institutions in the Third World. Thus, a course taught at Cal Poly, SLO would be jointly taught at the University of Ghana. American students and Ghanaian students would live together in the centers and engage in joint research.


Locations of 17 Cocoa Study Centers
A. Dominican Republic
B. Costa Rica
C. Columbia
D. Venezuela
E. Peru
F. Ecuador
G. Bolivia
H. Brazil
I. Ghana J. Côte d’Ivoire
K. Nigeria
L. Cameroon
M. Madagascar
N. Indonesia
O. Vietnam
P. Papua New Guinea
Q. India

Why These Locations: Unique Aspects
Dominican Republic: important to the organic/Fair Trade business. Conacado represents “bloques” of farmers. Pronatec, a Swiss company, grinds cocoa powder and produces cocoa butter at its plant in Santo Domingo.
Costa Rica: important source of organic cocoa. Well known for eco-tourism and like Ecuador, includes trips to cocoa-growing villages.
Columbia: is encouraging farmers to grow cocoa rather than drugs. The Santander region is known for its superior cocoa beans as well as its excellent coffee.
Venezuela: famous for its Criollo varieties, Chuao, Maracaibo, and Choroni.
Peru: Naranjillo cooperative supplies much of the cocoa liquor, butter, and powder for the Fair Trade Organic market of North America.
Ecuador: well known for its eco-tourism (e.g., Rio Muchacho; Yachana Lodge) that includes trips to cocoa-growing villages.
Bolivia: the president, Evo Morales, sets this country apart. Many entrepreneurial start-ups are attempting to connect with markets in the First World.
Ghana: produces 18% of the world’s cocoa. Ghana has a long history growing it—since Tetteh Quarshie brought beans to his parent’s farm in the late 1800’s. Ghana’s beans are especially prized for their fat contents. The government controls all aspects of the cocoa economy. Kuapa Kokoo is a 40,000 member Fair Trade cooperative that also owns a 30% interest in the Day Chocolate Company, which manufactures Divine Chocolate.
Côte d’Ivoire: the most important cocoa-growing country in the world. Supplies 75% of the cocoa for American chocolate. Although there are 60 buying companies in San Pedro, the major exporting port, the bulk of the market is controlled by ADM, Cargill, and Barry-Callebaut.
Nigeria: produces 5% of the world’s cocoa. This country is awash in venture capital, thanks to its oil industry. Hence, opportunities for making cocoa sustainable are rich.
Cameroon: also produces 5% of the world’s cocoa, part of it in the second wettest region on earth. Also home to some of the last large tracts of rainforest. Cameroon has a long history of European and American involvement.
Madagascar: one of the most exotic regions in terms of biodiversity. Home of Madécasse, a gourmet chocolate company that manufactures the bars in Madagascar.
Indonesia: one of the largest producers of cocoa. Bali is becoming well known as a source of raw cocoa products.
Vietnam: farmers have embraced this tropical crop and are implementing modern growing and fermenting methods.
Papua New Guinea: one of the last wild places on earth. Interface between indigenous peoples and a growing industry is cause for study.
India: Southern provinces and Sri Lanka are planting cocoa. India represents a fast-growing economy in the Far East.


Cocoa-growing is an important source of capital for many countries in the tropical world. In West Africa alone, there are over 2.5 million cocoa farmers. Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, combined, produce over 60% of the world’s cocoa, the vast majority of which comes from smallholders, farming families that typically own about 5 hectares of land.

Cocoa-growing countries rely heavily on cocoa bean sales for foreign exchange. Cocoa accounts for 28% and 90% of Ghana’s and Côte d’Ivoire’s foreign exchange earnings, respectively.

Cocoa-farming is a rapidly growing sector of the world’s tropical agriculture. For example, Vietnamese farmers are moving aggressively into cocoa-growing. Malaysia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea are important cocoa growing countries. As Venezuela’s share of the world’s oil production diminishes, cocoa-farming becomes an increasingly important part of their agricultural economy.

For more than 150 years, cocoa growing has suffered from inattentiveness, like tea and coffee. For the longest time, it was produced by poor farmers, and First World countries were content to benefit from trade inequalities. Today, as the Third World exerts increasing pressure on the First World, demanding ever larger portions of the economic pie, First World educational institutions can no longer afford to ignore the role tropical products play in the world’s economy.

Most cocoa study is still done by cocoa research institutes (e.g. Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana) by PhD’s who have developed expertise in specific research areas such as methods of intercropping for increasing yields or such as new cocoa varieties that mature earlier and yield better. Such institutes are generally supported by governments of cocoa-growing countries such as Ghana and Nigeria. They are typically located separately from villages and there is minimal contact between such research institutes and cocoa farmers.

However, it is very important for Western universities to recognize the importance of studying tropical agriculture, not just as yet one more example of agriculture, but from a holistic view. Cocoa farming is more than just growing a fruit-bearing plant. It includes the cocoa-growing village, the middlemen, buyers, shippers and processors.
This proposal is to establish 17 cocoa study centers for the express purpose of housing undergraduate and graduate students interested in studying villages that grow cocoa. Such students would have disparate academic backgrounds (e.g., International Nutrition, Rural Sociology, International Economics, Food Science, Engineering). Typically, they would spend 1-4 weeks in a village as part of a course run at their academic institution.