Awono Sylvestre is the Cacao-Trace Expert and Senior Product and Training Manager (Chocolate) at Puratos, and is responsible for the business development of Cacao-Trace. He bridges Cacao-Trace sourcing communities to market opportunities, never sparing any energy to find more revenues for Cacao-Trace farmers. At Puratos, he has had an enriching 16-year career, where he had also successively led R&D, Product Management, and Business Development of Bakery products until 2017. In the years prior to joining Puratos, he held various management positions in R&D, Process Improvement for flavours like essential oils, vanilla and Coffee, and the fermentation department at academic and corporate levels.
It would only be fair to say that Sylvestre’s career in the agri-industry was inevitable. He was raised by his grandparents, and his grandfather, who worked the plantations in Cameroon, taught him to respect the farmers and nature. “My connection with farmers, to the land, and nature has been a beacon in the night when choosing which studies to pursue and later my career,” he says. Sylvestre had also discovered palm wine fermentation to bond with his grandmother, and from this experience, he became passionate about fermentation. “Today, leveraging my knowledge of fermentation to help cocoa farmers thrive isn’t my job; it’s my life mission.”
Looking back at his successful journey so far, Sylvestre recalls that he started school in a small village in Cameroon, using a tree trunk as a bench to sit on and writing with chalk on a slate resting on his knees. Fast forward to October 2019, he was invited to inaugurate the first primary school funded by Cacao-Trace's Chocolate Bonus in the village of Abdoulayekro in Côte d'Ivoire, which he considers his best professional achievement. Since then, other education infrastructures have been built in Côte d'Ivoire, Papua New Guinea, and Vietnam. Cacao Trace's Chocolate Bonus has funded drinkable water equipment projects and maternity facilities as well.
Transparency and traceability are integral to ensure a responsible cocoa supply chain and several global organisations have taken steps in this direction. How is traceability data empowering farming communities? How much of an impact does it have on consumers’ buying decisions?
We are interested to learn more about Puratos’ sustainable entrepreneurship. Could you tell us about your six sustainable pillars and in what ways the company contributes to the UN SDGs?
- Environment: Carbon neutrality, water management, food waste, and non-food waste (carbon insetting, solar panels, fish ponds, long freshness of bread)
- Responsible sourcing: Sustainable raw materials, ethical suppliers, and traceability (fruit supply, cocoa supply with Cacao-Trace, palm oil, and animal welfare)
- Health and wellbeing: Food quality and safety, nutritional value for food, clean(er) food, healthy diet awareness, sustainable innovation, and product development (Sensobus & Taste Tomorrow, key principles for Health & wellbeing)
- Heritage: Preservation of bakery and chocolate (chocolate museums and sourdough library)
- People: Employee health and safety, employee learning and development, business ethic and culture (Puratos Magic family, Puratos University)
- Communities: Farmers livelihood, education and jobs opportunities (Bakery schools, Chunca plantations and chocolate bonus)
Could you give us an effective example of a climate-smart business model for cocoa production?
- increase the income level of cocoa farmers,
- inclusion of livestock
- contribute to making the cocoa value chain more sustainable and ecologically friendly.
Foreign direct investment and international aid, or partnerships and business relationships: which of the two have a better impact on the sustainable, long-term development of local communities?
A study suggests that for a 200g packaged milk chocolate bar, cocoa comprises around 10 percent of total costs. When considering how the profits are split, farmers receive a meagre share of 3.5 to 6.5%, comparable to that of advertising (6.5%) and transporters (around 4%), while a significantly larger portion goes to processors and manufacturers (51%) and retailers (28%). How can the stakeholders ensure better profit margins for the primary producers of the raw material so that they can stay motivated to grow better quality cocoa beans and invest further in their farms, skills, and families?
- First, create value, a tangible value that people can appreciate and for which they will be willing to pay more to acquire it, resulting in additional revenue.
- Second, sharing the additional revenue generated from the value creation, specifically to the cocoa farmers who suffer from an imbalance in profit share
What are the benefits of longer-term sourcing relationships for both cocoa producers and buyers?
How effective and practical are polyculture farming, agroforestry, and other forest-positive initiatives in ensuring higher plant productivity, biodiversity conservation, climate resilience, income diversification and other long-term socio-economic benefits for the farmers? What other major areas of development do you think public- and private-sector organisations should focus on for their sustainable development strategies?
Precision agriculture technologies, including remote sensing, satellite-based data, and AI, have made breakthroughs in improving productivity, efficiency, quality, and access to international markets. From your experience, are farmers and businesses quick to adopt digital solutions? What advantages and disadvantages do these technologies offer to the different stakeholders?