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How effective are training programs for cocoa farmer health, wealth and agroecology?

While the cacao industry has increased spending in the last decades on farmer training and extension support, cacao yields have continued to fall and farmer health has deteriorated. Much has been communicated about volume of farmer trainings completed, but little about how it impacted cacao farming itself.

This research assess the effectiveness of various training interventions for how they contribute to cacao farmer health, wealth and agroecology. 

The market for cacao farmer training in cacao and agriculture, has various forms and formats of upskilling, each with their own goals of what to achieve for example; plant pathology, public health, climate adaption, community engagement.

For legacy (NGO development) and economic (multinational company build out) or political (foreign aid) reasons these have been implemented over the last 20 years however cacao yield world-wide has not improved; although technology, science and world development has. Additionally, farmers in cacao receive below-poverty income for their work; dis-incenvitising next generation to join the family business.

Systemic financial struggles combined with an ageing farming population without succession management leaves the future of cacao and the chocolate industry in question.

Coupled with growing obesity and malnutrition occurring in farming households, ongoing health issues mostly in joint and back pain, with vision problems, classic visual cacao farming methods are unable to be maintained with much of the world’s cacao tree population ageing itself. Climate change science has indicated an immediate need to invest in practices to adapt to longer dry seasons and hotter temperatures which typically negatively impact cacao trees; thus making the future job of cacao farming even more difficult than it was in the past.

Interested to collaborate?

We are actively looking for cacao farming programs who would like to participate in the criteria modeling and also organisations who want to contribution to prioritising health, wealth and agroecology criteria.

Seeing a proud and strong cacao farmer as a business with entrepreneurial types of decision making and needs, the family unit around a farmer as being part of this picture and their total health and wealth as influential tools for how their manage their crop, related income and lifestyle is key.

Research into the field of participatory action for co-creating interventions in education, health and agriculture has yielded positive results, as well as addressing the plight of cacao farming not in silos of plant pathology, public health, export crops but as a wholistic and self-sustaining unit.

Training from a pedagogic perspective has constructive examples in rural agriculture settings whereby face to face, peer diffusion and digital methods yield results of decreased plant mortality, increased income, increased health and safety. In this context, for this research, literature is reviewed according to issues in farmer training, low resource countries, climate change and cacao, living wage and health. 

This study is a descriptive research on key models of cacao farmer training in different years, agricultural zones, cultures and political environments.

These case studies will be measured against criteria defined as important for health, wealth and land care by cacao farmers, chocolate industry, health and science academics and regulators.

Semi-structured interviews and focus groups will be conducted to give context and detailed insights to these criteria in each case study to ascertain key success factors in either the pedagogic method, or content delivered for future baselining.

While there is literature and industry discussion to pointing to the importance of cross-disciplinary and wholistic action, there is little actual delivery on this. This research will yield both 1) a collaborative prioritisation of interdependent criteria for health, wealth and land care in cacao farming, from farmers to chocolate industry to science. 2) an assessment of how cacao training models are delivering towards this criteria. And in result, it will identify the most important elements for an ideal cacao programme to achieve increased farmer wellness, living income and agroecology for an inspiring and sustainable chocolate future.

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