Cacao for Peace Initiative

Purdue University and CIAT Cacao for Peace Working Group at FEDECACAO headquarters in San Vicente de Chucurí, Santander, Colombia where they learned about the cacao supply chain. Included are Mark Lundy and Fernando Rodriguez from CIAT and Phil Abbott, Tamara Benjamin, Marcia Croft, Colleen Kelly, Marieke Fenton, and Michael Wilcox from Purdue.

The Cacao-for-Peace Project is a new USDA led program, funded by USAID, with great potential to positively affect Colombian society. As the name implies, cacao production is expected to play an important role in Colombia's peace process by helping farmers increase their income. Cacao, a native plant to Colombia, is the source of chocolate, a product that has been experiencing a growing demand worldwide.

The project seeks to generate a holistic and interdisciplinary approach to the entire process of planting, growing, harvesting, processing, and commercializing cacao. The holistic view from a group of experts in various schools and in different fields is an attempt to ensure that all aspects of production are covered by the program. The project is being developed by the joint efforts of several Land Grand Universities (Purdue University, Pennsylvania State University, and the University of Florida), the Colombian Corporation of Agricultural Research (CORPOICA), International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), United States Peace Corps, and Colombia´s National Training Service (SENA).

The Purdue interdisciplinary team includes Dr. Phillip Abbot (Agricultural Economics), Dr. Michael Wilcox (Purdue Center for Regional Development), Dr. Gary Burniske (Center for Global Food Security), Dr. Tamara Benjamin (Horticulture and Landscape Architecture), Dr. Jeffrey Stuart (Entomology), and graduate students Colleen Kelly (Youth Development and Agricultural Education), Marcia Croft (Horticulture and Landscape Architecture), and Marieke Fenton (Agricultural Economics). They are working hand-in-hand with colleagues from CIAT, Dr. Mark Lundy and Mr. Fernando Rodriguez. The combined efforts of everyone on the team bring a diverse set of skills with a depth of expertise on cacao production and economics.

Some of the Purdue University members for the Cacao for Peace Working Group at the FEDECACAO (Federación de Cacao, the organization that supports research, extension, and marketing of cacao in Colombia) experimental station in Santander, Colombia. Included are Phil Abbott, Tamara Benjamin, Marcia Croft, Colleen Kelly, Marieke Fenton, and Michael Wilcox.

Purdue University is designing a baseline study from which to understand the current cacao production situation. "We are trying to understand the entire cacao supply chain in the country" explains Benjamin "so we can inform the government and external funders where the holes or barriers are located to better allocate resources." To achieve this, two graduate students, Marcia Croft and Marieke Fenton, worked in Colombia on a three-month internship sponsored by USDA, where they interviewed different stakeholders along the cacao production chain to better understand the cacao sector in Colombia from the point of selling to consumption. This information provided valuable insight on the current domestic and international cacao market, prices, consumer preferences, and potential competitors. They have found that Colombia not only has a great domestic cacao market, but also, that it could have potential participation in the large international market.

Moreover, Purdue Extension Educators, Carmen DeRusha and Kris Parker, designed and led a two-day (October 26-27) facilitated workshop in Bogotá, Colombia. The main goal of this activity was to gather team-based information from representatives of different stakeholders along the cacao supply chain, to understand how cacao can be a useful contributor for peace in Colombia, and what factors need to be considered to make cacao production stronger. "The group was extremely diverse," explains DeRusha "there were cacao producers, processors, marketing people, and even a representative from the indigenous people in Santa Marta." By the end of the facilitated discussions, all parties agreed on four specific strategies to improve the cacao sector in Colombia: 1) increase cacao productivity, 2) institutionalize the cacao sector to increase its presence at the governmental level, 3) improve understanding of the local and international cacao markets intertwined with research, and 4) enhance communication and strengthen the relationship between actors along the cacao supply chain.

The results and recommendations of this primary phase of "Cacao for Peace" will be delivered in March 2017 in Cali, Colombia to key stakeholders in the cacao supply chain, the US Ambassador, and representatives from USDA and USAID. The results of the study will be taken into consideration for the remaining stages of the project. Meanwhile, our Purdue team is enthusiastic about the opportunity to bring young Colombian talent with "Cacao for Peace" funds to pursue graduate degrees and conduct research on cacao in the near future. We congratulate our Purdue colleagues for all their hard work on this remarkable project. Boiler up!

Colleen Kelly, graduate student in Youth Development and Agricultural Education, and Marcia Croft, graduate student in Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, practicing their cacao drying skills on a rooftop in Santander, Colombia on a structure called an elba.

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