“No more business as usual!” declared Dr. Jean-Marc Anga, Executive Director of the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) at the cocoa world’s pre-eminent event held every two years. The Berlin Declaration, emerging from the conference, sounded a wake-up call for the industry. It acknowledges that recent efforts to drive cocoa sustainability have barely made an impact.

COSA’s Daniele Giovannucci illuminated the value of having credible information and common indicators to measure sustainability, as a necessary step toward a more equitable sector. As moderator of the conference’s eight panels on Sustainable Industry, Daniele called for giving farmers their rightful place as decision makers who also need shared knowledge to function at the core of the cocoa value chain.

This farmer-centric perspective was further elaborated by respected industry leaders including Rick Scobey (World Cocoa Foundation),  Abraham Adusei (WCFO, Ghana), Dogui Aboa (Ministry of Forestry, Côte d’Ivoire), Andrew Bovarnick (Green Commodities Programme, UNDP), and Etelle Higonnet (Mighty Earth) during our initial plenary panel on Addressing Deforestation in the Cocoa Supply Chain.

Many good ideas emerged in Berlin for approaching challenges from the perspective of the holistic development of rural communities. But making data both accessible and useful for the farmer — i.e., “democratizing” data — is a novel approach that can help drive solutions from the ground level up. As an example, COSA’s work with automated diagnostic tools for farmer groups gets the right data to cooperatives and farmers. With timely knowledge, we can see that rural organizations can better play a critical role by providing small farmers with important services.