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Symposium Summary Report

Mapping the Future of Cacao Research for the Caribbean Region of Colombia

Symposium summary report                                                                       10/6/17

Cacao for Peace (CfP) today released the summary report of an international symposium held in Barranqulla, Colombia in May 2017. The CfP project is funded and managed by USAID and the USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service and involves variety of Colombian and international academic, government, and industry organizations. The program aims to improve the well-being of Colombian cacao farming families and their communities by helping to make cacao a more profitable and environmentally sustainable crop and by promoting cacao as a peaceful alternative to coca, the source of cocaine.

The report includes a summary of the main events and presentations of the conference, as well as the recommendations and outcomes from the meeting. The report aims to inform the broader science community and funding agencies about the state of science surrounding cacao production, and to guide CfP management in the establishment of funding priorities for future project activities.

"Through the symposium," said Siela Maximova, CfP principal investigator at Penn State, "we gained a better understanding of the research needs of the region's cacao farmers and processors. In my opinion, we developed a shared vision and established some common goals among all people involved related to the future of the Colombia's cacao industry." The symposium also strengthened relationships among cacao researchers and administrators in Colombia and the U.S.

Symposium participants from CfP's partner institutions pinpointed research priorities necessary to promote the cacao industry in Colombia, primarily the Caribbean region. They identified soil and water relationships, including cadmium in soil; crop improvement through genetics; the transfer of knowledge and helpful cultivation practices from academics and government scientists to farmers on the ground; and market research. The findings of the meetings will be used to guide the future activities of CfP project and may help Colombia's National Cacao Council to further develop their national priorities for research and development. The priorities identified in the meeting represent traditional agricultural research questions as well as social components with important value for the development of the industry.

Cadmium poses a challenge to cacao production in Colombia because it naturally occurs in the soils and it accumulates in some varieties of cacao beans. The European Union in January 2019 will reduce the allowable amount of cadmium in chocolate to protect human health, so there's an urgent need to find solutions to reduce cadmium accumulation in the beans. Solutions to the cadmium challenge require integrated approach and may result from variety of plant, soil, environmental or microbial research.

The symposium summary report also reviews the latest scientific research into cacao production by Colombian and U.S. partners and describes the initial stages of the development of research teams to attack the most pressing issues in cacao production.