Enhancing cocoa productivity and nutrient use efficiency requires a deeper understanding of the nutrient requirements of the cocoa tree and the roles and physiological responses to different nutrients. Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM) recommendations will be developed based on medium- and long-term data from carefully planned and consistently managed nutrient response trials following agreed protocols and resource commitments Specific ISFM and other productivity-enhancing recommendations will be delivered towards the sustainable intensification of cocoa production. The program will be implemented through public-private partnerships with leading partners IITA and WUR in collaboration with CIAT, ICRAF, UNEP-WCMC, NARS (including CNRA, CRIG, CRIN, IRAD , and Universities), cocoa authorities, fertilizer industry partners, cocoa industry partners and IDH.
The program is constructed around public-private partnerships between the cocoa industry and the (inter)national R&D community to address major gaps in the knowledge base required to close cocoa yield gaps and deliver this knowledge to cocoa farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. A total amount of about 11.5 million USD is requested to the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) for a 5-year period to deliver on a R4D (Research for Development) program focusing on cocoa agronomy and nutrient management and a P4D (Partnerships for Delivery) program to reach at least 90,000 cocoa farmers through existing dissemination networks based on the R4D component. The programs will be implemented through a consortium led by IITA and WUR with direct engagement of National Research Systems (NARS) in the target countries, international research centres (CIAT, ICRAF, UNEP-WCMC ); and the cocoa and fertilizer industries, convened through the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH).
Poor soil fertility is a root cause underlying the decline in productivity the cocoa sector has seen over the past decades. Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM) proposes a stepwise intensification of cocoa production, combining improved varieties, canopy management and pest/disease control with targeted fertilizer applications complemented by (re-)use of locally available (organic) nutrient sources and appropriate intercrops/shade trees. The efficiency and profitability of fertilizer in cocoa must be improved yet we lack a fundamental understanding of the mineral nutrition of cocoa. Enhancing nutrient use efficiency requires a deeper understanding of the nutrient requirements of the cocoa tree and the roles and physiological responses to different nutrients.
The proposed program covers Research for Development (R4D) and extension or Partnerships for Development (P4D) components, addressing the need to (i) generate extra knowledge in relation to cocoa intensification and (ii) facilitating access to such knowledge by cocoa farmers. The R4D component will be led by the international and national research institutes while the P4D component will be implemented through existing and active dissemination networks for smallholder cocoa farmers. The industry partners will be active on two level. They can opt to “adopt a trial” and as such contribute to the R4D component or they can engage in the dissemination of the generated knowledge by field testing the extension tools and methods developed under the P4D component.
The R4D component will deliver site-specific ISFM recommendations adapted to soil, climate and crop management conditions (including shade trees). These recommendations require long-term data from carefully planned and consistently managed nutrient response trials across environments and crop management systems, underpinned by a better understanding of the physiological basis governing nutrient use. The consortium will deliver the following R4D outputs over a 5-year period:
The P4D component will facilitate access to new knowledge generated to cocoa farmers by developing dissemination tools, facilitating training-of-trainer events, engagement in policy discussion related to the cocoa sector, and facilitating appropriate M&E support. The consortium will deliver the following R4D outputs over a 5-year period through engaging with existing dissemination networks:
The geographic distribution of the trials will cover the environmental conditions and system diversity (modest shading/full-sun) of key cocoa production areas and selection of sites will be based on sound geo-spatial analysis. Consistent trial design for the long-term trials, data collection, data sharing, and data analysis will be agreed upon at the start of this initiative. Trials are envisaged in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Brazil, Ecuador, Indonesia and the Philippines and will be hosted and maintained by different partners (private sector, IITA, NARS) following agreed protocols and resource commitments. Data and results, once checked and analysed, will be shared publicly in a pre-competitive way through an open knowledge and data sharing portal on the internet.
A consortium of public and private partners has been established to deliver on above agenda, building on previous work of the Cocoa Fertilizer Initiative. The consortium will be led by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and Wageningen University & Research (WUR) and will team up with key international organizations (CIAT, ICRAF, UNEP-WCMC) and NARS (including CNRA, CRIG, CRIN, IRAD, and Universities), fertilizer industry partners, and major cocoa industry partners. IDH will coordinate and provide a pre-competitive convening space to guide the initiative and ensure research addresses the needs of diverse stakeholders. IITA and WUR provide coordination, science leadership and build capacity of partners, and supervision of PhD and MSc students. Private sector partners have committed to provide key cocoa/fertilizer knowledge, financial support and implementation of the long-term trials. National cocoa authorities and research organizations provide expertise, help build PhD and MSc capacity and avail trial sites and facilities.