The opening “gala” celebration for the World Cocoa Foundation’s 10th Anniversary Conference was appropriate in more ways than intended. The US Botanic Gardens in Washington, DC was a beautiful site for a cocktail and familiarizing with representatives en masse from the cocoa industry. The lone exotic theobroma cacao tree sat front and center in the conservatory bearing one, small, single pod. The following morning Frank Mars, of Mars Inc., set the tone for the conference as he gave a jolt of reality to the 300 delegates in attendance that echoed the image of the solo cocoa pod from the night before: world supply shortage for a growing cocoa industry in the next 10 years.
The WCF is “a leading voice in promoting sustainable cocoa production, working to improve the wellbeing of the world’s cocoa farmers, their families, and communities.” It was a gathering of cocoa related small businesses, multinational corps, trade associations, producing nations, supply chain processors, and NGO’s. In six years of supporting the WCF, LCC has experienced farmer field training schools in Ghana, been educated on the various research and social programs ongoing in producing countries, and taken part in annual cocoa industry meetings.
Sustainability has been a keyword as of late for just about anything you can think of – and for good reason. We are extremely fortunate that our peer individuals and fellow companies in Vermont are committed to organic sustainable farming, farm to table, and sustainable alternative energy. The unofficial theme of the conference quickly became apparent: People, Planet, and Profit. A green revolution needs to wreak havoc on the cocoa producing sector to initiate environmental improvements that can in turn spur economic and social upticks.
So, one might ask how to kick start cocoa and the green revolution? Well, it was pointed out it needs to continue in a number of places: the recent unlocking of the cocoa genome, improving research extension services in producing countries, upcycling (or the use of waste materials into products for higher environmental value), motivating farmers, and the underestimated factor of culture. The fact remains that cocoa is a very labor intensive crop that employs millions of farmers and families in the world’s least developed countries. Communication is a struggle but the widespread adoption of cell phones in said underdeveloped areas by cocoa farmers is an emerging tool for collaboration.
No need to panic! This is not a last call for chocolate bars, rather insight into the industry sustainability responsibility efforts to be launched in the next 10 years of cocoa by members of the World Cocoa Foundation. The founder of LCC, Jim Lampman, relieved the attendees with a fresh breath of Vermont in his closing conference remarks, demonstrating the great people, ingredients, and products here at Lake Champlain Chocolates!