Who would have thought that chocolate could actually have heart-health benefits? This was one of the topics of discussion for the 300 attendees at a biannual international Cocoa Symposium held in both Washington, D.C. (at the National Academy of Sciences) and in Ghana, West Africa.
Through a multi-disciplinary series of presentations discussing groundbreaking advances in cocoa science, the goal of these symposiums was to explore in-depth the ability of agriculture to deliver life-changing advances in medicine, nutrition and public health; identify and reveal recent scientific advances in cocoa; and promote and build scientific collaborations.
Because cocoa accounts for just under one-sixth of the country’s GDP, it was important for us to first introduce the symposium to the Ghanaian government, obtain their guidance and secure participation of African scientists to best reflect the region and crop.
The scope of our management for both the Washington, D.C. and Ghana locations included leading an international steering committee to design and execute the symposium (working in partnership with the University of California at Davis, Mars, Inc., the World Bank, the World Agroforestry Centre and other organizations), program development, international travel arrangements and visas, meetings with Ghanaian government officials, venue coordination, audio visual production, ground transportation, materials development, registration, food and beverage planning, and on-site execution. The event also featured a series of chocolate tastings and a special dinner held at the Smithsonian Castle in Washington, D.C.
The success of the Cocoa Symposium resulted in 250 delegates from 14 West and Central African countries, along with cocoa industry leaders, finalizing a first-ever sustainable cocoa farming plan for Africa that was designed to help cocoa farmers considerably increase their income by growing trees that are higher quality, are more resistant to disease and drought, and consume fewer natural resources.