1. What does the Clima Loca project focused on?
The project addresses important challenges related to the resilience, competitiveness and inclusiveness of the smallholder cocoa sectors. By resilience we refer to the capacity of the producers and other actors in the value chain to mitigate the negative impacts of EU food safety regulation on cadmium in cocoa, and of climate change. Clima-LoCa is financially supported by the DeSIRA program, which is a global platform for “Development-smart Innovation through Research in Agriculture” of the European Union. The platform seeks to strengthen agricultural innovation based on engagement of end-users and other relevant actors to co-develop and scale solutions that are based on strong science. The Clima-LoCa project has the ambition to contribute to knowledge on sustainable cacao production systems through interdiscipinary and participatory research and to the mobilization of research results involving farmers, policy makers, value chain actors, and researchers.
2. What makes this project different from other cocoa research initiatives in the region?
In my view the project is different from other projects in the sense that we use a strong interdisciplinary approach, connecting soil and climate scientists with cacao geneticists, social scientists, economists etcetera to come up with assessments and solutions that consider the different aspects of cacao production. A cacao producer also needs to integrate the social, economic, environmental and agronomic aspects to adapt the production systems, and we researchers need to provide a more holistic view of the system as well.
Another difference is that Clima-LoCa builds on the capacity and knowledge that is already available in the countries but at a rather scattered level. We integrate existing knowledge and data and complement by filling important information and knowledge gaps and we make sure to involve sector actors in all stages of the process from research design, to data collection and dissemination of the results.
3. On what will the work with producers and the field trials consist?
In Clima LoCa we are constructing a regional network of research trials and on-farm piloting sites. The two types of field experiments cover different agroecological zones where cacao is produced, across Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. The on-farm piloting is done in close collaboration with farmers, using a participatory approach. We will test promising solutions to reduce Cd uptake in cacao considering the reality of the farmers and evaluate the benefits and barriers to adopt different potential mitigation practices. This may include the use of soil amendments or the evaluation of genetic materials to see if these technologies lead to a reduction in cadmium in cacao beans as well as co-benefits or trade-offs in terms of productivity, soil fertility etc. The results of the research trials and on-farm pilots will be disseminated and together with value chain actors including extension agencies we will develop a strategy to support the adoption and scaling of mitigation strategies.
4. How do you think the safety regulations on cadmium in the EU have impacted on the 3 countries with which the Clima Loca project works?
The EU food safety regulation for cadmium in cacao was implemented at the start of 2019. However, this regulation was not a surprise, the countries knew that this was coming already years before. Initially the countries tried to prevent that the regulation would be implemented, questioning the relevance of the regulation for consumer health, and based on concerns about the impacts the regulation would have on, already vulnerable, smallholder cacao producers. At the same time research projects were started by national research organizations, universities, and private sector in the countries to develop national cadmium maps and evaluate technologies to reduce cadmium uptake in cacao. I see that efforts to collaborate at regional level are increasing both at the political level and in the research community. Clima-LoCa definitely is a great contribution in this respect. The project was developed based on a regional research agenda defined in collaboration with researchers and stakeholders from the 3 countries and with the involvement of European partners.