So, what's the problem
Cocoa is an important source of income across the Southeast Asia region. The livelihoods of thousands of smallholder farmers are dependent on this crop.
Food safety and the use of potentially harmful chemicals in food production and processing are major consumer concerns.
In response, policy decision makers are using legislation to ensure that all food production matches consumer expectations and safety standards irrespective of country of origin. Failure to comply can be financially damaging for food manufacturers and negatively impact their reputation.
Legislation covers all food entering major markets such as the EU, Japan or the US and includes raw materials such as cocoa. For the production and export of good quality cocoa, all food safety and international ‘SPS’ (Sanitary and Phytosanitary) standards must be met.
Ensuring these standards are met enables producing countries to maintain access to their markets, maintain producer livelihoods and national GDP, and underpin consumer confidence in cocoa products.
What is this project doing?
The project worked to build SPS capacity in Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea ensuring production and trade in cocoa meets both food safety and international standards on pesticide residues and other harmful substances. Best practices were promoted throughout the cocoa value chain - from production to export - to improve the production of high-quality cocoa that complies with international regulations and legislation. This approach has:
- improved cocoa quality through the application of good agricultural practice along the supply chain
- facilitated knowledge sharing between participating stakeholder groups
- raised awareness of food safety concerns (and how to address them) through the entire supply chain and to stakeholders beyond the project’s immediate reach
Stakeholders targeted by the project included smallholder producers, agri-dealers, processors and exporters and involved national and regional authorities that are responsible for research relating to cocoa and SPS issues. Specifically, on-the-ground training of trainers enabled leaders of farmer groups, local extension agents, agro-dealers and cocoa processors to train their peers to produce and process cocoa using best practices that reduce potentially harmful chemical residues or contaminants.
An online knowledge exchange platform was developed to help share educational materials and experiences. Through this, and stakeholder workshops, we facilitated linkages and encouraged cooperation between project participants, including private enterprises and public organizations to ensure the whole approach to food safety in cocoa is more cohesive.
A regional approach was adopted, with interventions primarily focussed in Indonesia and Malaysia with knowledge-sharing activities also implemented in Papua New Guinea, with a view to extending the reach of project outputs and outcomes to the wider region.
We produced and tailored some training manuals for the Master Trainers on cocoa production and post-harvest processing in Malaysia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea and held multiple events for training Master Trainers in Malaysia (27) and Indonesia (20). They could then train facilitators who then, in turn, passed the information on to extension and agricultural officers, lead farmers, cocoa processors input suppliers and others in the cocoa supply chain. Manuals were produced in English and in local languages.
Videos and posters in local languages helped get specific food safety messages across to a larger audience in Malaysia and Indonesia. They explained best practice for topics such as pesticide use and cocoa fermentation.
We launched the CocoaSafe website (www.cocoasafe.org) which provides information on cocoa food safety for the region, access to training materials and project updates. Linked websites were also setup by partners in participating countries to offer this information in local languages.
The impact of the training is currently being assessed using information gathered in baseline and follow up surveys. The results will help to improve the training materials and methods. The partner countries are being encouraged to adopt and incorporate the curriculum into all future training.
Team Leader/ Plant Pathologist