The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has expanded its partnership with the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) in a bid to boost cocoa production in developing countries and improve livelihoods for cocoa farmers.
USDA and WCF have struck a five year deal that will see 32 scientists and public-and private-sector professionals from cocoa-producing countries such as the Ivory Coast and Ghana enroll on two USDA programmes designed to help participants gain knowledge on cocoa growing which they can take back home.
Suzanne Heinen, administrator of USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service, said: "Millions of people in West Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America depend upon cocoa production for their livelihoods.
“Through this public-private partnership, fellows from these regions will gain skills and knowledge that they can take back home to help their countries become more competitive in producing and exporting quality cocoa and cocoa products."
What’s in it for the States?
"The United States also benefits from this partnership and efforts to increase cocoa production," Heinen continued.
"About 70,000 Americans are directly employed in the cocoa and chocolate industries with many more employed in related industries such as dairy, sugar and nuts."
Renewing existing scheme
Under the agreement, USDA and WCF will offer 20 fellowships through the Norman E. Borlaug International Agricultural Science and Technology Fellowship Program.
Participants in this scheme will embark on a 12-week training program at a U.S. research institution, working closely with an assigned mentor, who will later visit the fellow’s home country to assess progress.
The USDA and WCF previously trained 23 scientists through the Borlaug Program.
The USDA/WCF agreement will also allow 12 non-scientists to attend industry visits and seminars in the US through the Cochran Fellowship Program.
Participants will be mid- and senior-level professionals from both the public and private sectors in cocoa producing countries.
The agreement was announced at the PMCA International Association of Confectioners conference in Pennsylvania last week.