Outraged by the lack of sustainable and hygienic farming methods within the cocoa industry, Anannyabrata Mandal ’18 shares his research and passion for helping to create sustainable agricultural practices for farmers in Cote d’Ivoire.
Anannyabrata Mandal ’18 came to ALA from Cote d’Ivoire with a piqued interest in learning about other cultures and societies.
“I was chosen as a delegate for the ALA Model African Union in March 2017 through my high school, Morning Glory International School,” recalls Anannya.
Although he was only 14 at the time, he says that he felt strongly about attending the conference in Johannesburg as it aligned with his interests. He went on to win a Best Delegate award that year and knew that ALA was the right fit for him.
As his passion for research developed, his focus shifted into farming and agricultural sustainability, and it is through some of his most memorable classes at ALA, like African Studies and Model African Union (MAU) research that he was able to identify a need in his community back home, and expand his skill set.
“MAU research was a key aspect during my time here at ALA,” says Mandal. “It allowed me to really focus my research and choose a topic to explore that is close to home.”
The Entrepreneurial Leadership classes provided him with the opportunity to be part of the student enterprise, Agrinnovation. This gave Ananya huge practical exposure to agricultural work in the field, as well as the financial dimension of the sector.
“I had to collaborate with farmers and government officials and classes like Writing and Rhetoric helped me get better at it. It made me a better communicator,” says Anannya.
During his time at the Academy, Anannya held a number of leadership roles; Chairperson of the Electoral Student Council, Hall Residential Assistant, and Committee Chairperson for ALAMAU 2020.
Mathematics, Statistics and Economics were amongst Anannya’s favourite classes at ALA, and he plans to apply his knowledge to the continued development of a sustainable solution to agriculture in Cote d’Ivoire.
“For Cote d’Ivoire, and any third world nation in fact, agriculture is critical for the nation because a large percentage of the population is employed in the agricultural sector. For Cote d’Ivoire, most of the government income is derived from these agricultural sectors and the country relies heavily on cocoa farming.” explains Mandal.
It was during one of his visits to the up-country of Côte d’Ivoire in July 2018, that he explored how typical cocoa plantations operate. When he witnessed old farmers toiling hard with old equipment and in unhygienic conditions, he decided to work towards a solution for these farmers. He again visited Brozan (a small village in Gôh-Djiboua zone) in December 2018, where he interacted with more farmers to try and understand their true problems.
“It’s really painful to know that the producers of this excellent creation of nature, chocolate, that always brings joy to the people are far from happiness! Not only that, if due measures are not taken, the existence of cocoa plantations would be in danger.”
He was introduced to Mr. Lassina Toure, who is in charge of a small cocoa supplying firm that was starting a sustainability project for cocoa farmers under the UTZ certification. Anannya saw the opportunity and offered to work with them as an intern without any remuneration.
His internship with SAGROCAF on Cocoa Sustainability project under UTZ certification continued through the winter break and he was able to include the farmers in the Brozan village under that project. Mandal’s work involved their traceability documentation and GPS mapping of their plantations and these farmers are now getting proper training and support to work in hygienic conditions and under environmentally sustainable ways. Very soon, the farmers will be UTZ certified cocoa farmers with codes, and would get their proper dues in terms of a premium over the government declared minimum price.
Anannya has been accepted to Cornell University and plans to continue his research to develop an economic model that will help to address growth and development in the agricultural sector simultaneously.
To watch Anannya’s Final Thesis presentation on the lack of sustainable and hygienic farming methods within the cocoa sector, click here.
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