With support from Mars Inc. and the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF), the African Cocoa Breeders Working Group (ACBWG) met in Reading (UK) from October 14-18 to discuss progress made by regional projects originally launched through this collaborative network.
Breeders from Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria and Togo met with scientists from the University of Reading, the International Center for Agricultural Research and Development (CIRAD), the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), and the University of Arizona, as well as representatives from Mars Inc., Mondelēz and Nestlé, together with administrators from the WCF and Cocoa Research UK.
Meeting at the University of Reading, October 2013
Since ACBWG was created in 2003, its members have met every year (generally in Africa), to exchange ideas on how to accelerate progress of the national breeding programs, and also to prepare regional projects. The 2013 meeting was divided in two sessions: the first discussed progress in each country on germplasm evaluation, and the second addressed germplasm utilization/breeding. The rationale to meet this year at the University of Reading was to facilitate collection of budwood from the International Cocoa Quarantine Centre (ICQC) that is maintained at the University, and to return it to each of the participating countries. This newly available germplasm will subsequently be used as a source of genes to improve key phenotypic traits. Germplasm collected by the various participating countries can be now independently evaluated, and results shared within the group, so as to avoid unnecessary duplication of efforts. During the meeting it was agreed that a database should be created and hosted at a new website to report on both the value of the germplasm, as well as on the breeding results from crosses among current and newly collected germplasm. The resulting databases will be hosted at a website managed by the International Cocoa Germplasm Database (ICGD) team under the umbrella of the International Group for Genetic Improvement of Cocoa (INGENIC).
At this year's meeting, a new ACBWG Chairman was elected: Dr. Bruno Effombagn from the Cameroon Agricultural Research Institute. The previous Chairman, Francis Padi, from the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana was instrumental in launching two regional initiatives during his tenure. These initiatives were also discussed during the meeting: the African Cocoa Initiative or ACI (funded through WCF with MARS support) and the project: "Facilitating Sustainable Intensification of Smallholder Cocoa Farming Systems in West and Central Africa", which was funded by the West African Council for Agricultural Research and Development.
During the meeting, we also concurred that further concerted efforts are required to improve tolerance to the Cocoa Swollen Shoot Virus (CSSV), a resurging viral disease that has serious impacts on West African cocoa production. CSSV specialists also attended the meeting at Reading and renewed their commitment to enhance collaborations that focus on CSSV and mealybug-vector interactions with the aim of developing powerful detection, breeding, and other management strategies.
- Yaoundé, Cameroon (October 2012)
- Accra, Ghana (September 2009)
- Accra, Ghana (October 2008)
- Abidjan, Cote D'Ivoire (February 2008)
- Accra, Ghana (2007)
- Ibadan, Nigeria (2006)