To meet demand, cocoa and chocolate producers require sufficient consistent and reliable supplies of quality cocoa beans. Globally, 40-50 million people depend on cocoa for their livelihoods. There are between 5 and 6 million cocoa farmers worldwide, who in 2016 produced around 4.7 million Tons of cocoa beans with a gross production value of US$4.6 billion (FAOSTAT). Despite this, most cocoa farmers live beneath the poverty line, on an income of less than US$2 per day. Beyond global price fluctuations, climate change poses a suite of new challenges, where rising temperatures, flooding, longer and more intense droughts and fluctuating weather patterns combine with increasing soil erosion to threaten cacao farmers' livelihoods and associated value chains.
Despite the seriousness and global reach of these threats, the world lacks a set of common, shared approaches and protocols to address them. Nor is there yet a common databank where different partners can upload their information to validate a wider analysis on cacao planting and soil characteristics and their interaction with climatic data.
Plants are adapting to climate change in different ways, each requiring different methods and means of measurement, for example, some coping mechanisms that involve plant organs can be measured by the minute, whilst other traits like yield or tree/crop canopy characteristics take longer to be measured. Furthermore measurement units often differ within and between fields, platforms or in the labs.
The physiological basis of climate resilience in cocoa is under-explored and international collaboration is essential to ensuring sustained cocoa productivity and quality in a changing climate. In the medium-term, unless we act now, there are likely to be at least a million cocoa-dependent livelihoods adversely affected by climate change. Cocoa diversity needs more extensive characterization for resilience to abiotic stresses.
This Knowledge Platform will highlight some of the initiative that are addressing these challenges as:
i) the belove-mentioned Collaborative Framework for Cacao Evaluation - Climate Change (CFCE-CC) project,
ii) World Cocoa Foundation’s Feed the Future Partnership for Climate Smart Cocoa,
iii) a CCAFS - funded project led by CIAT Mainstreaming climate-smart practices in cocoa production in Ghana,
iv) Bioversity’s Dutch-funded cacao project in Ghana: CocoaTarget to improve climatic and agro-ecological targeting of cacao varietal recommendations, and
v) University of Reading’s project The development of a platform for climate change research in cocoa, funded by Cocoa Research UK.
Efforts are needed to upscale research efforts for global impact. There are many inconsistencies between fields, controlled conditions sensors, units, and terminology, that all need to be harmonised.
This platform aims to foster shared strategies for addressing climate-change threats to farmer livelihoods and ecosystems in cocoa-growing regions. It is a dynamic platform that will improve according to the quality of inputs