Cocoa, a native to the Americas, was a valuable crop in the earliest South American cultures. The term cocoa originated from the Nahuatl word “cacahuatl”. Many believe that the plant first grew in the Amazon and upper Orinoco basins but the Mayans and the Aztecs eventually developed techniques to cultivate cocoa successfully. The plant was considered as a symbol of wealth for these civilizations and its beans were used as currency.
Cocoa beans are the main ingredient for making chocolate. About 70 percent of the world’s cocoa beans come from four West African countries: Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon. The Ivory Coast and Ghana are by far the two largest producers of cocoa, accounting for more than 50 percent of the world’s cocoa. In 2016, the Ivory Coast alone produced approximately 1.6 million metric tons of cocoa beans. The nation is expected to produce almost 1.9 million metric tons of cocoa beans during the 2016/2017 crop year.
Ivory Coast is the world’s biggest producer. Exports of cocoa account for 40% of its national export income. The maps on display include a Gold Coast Dept. of Agriculture 1944/1945 cocoa survey that also shows areas of swollen shoot infestation in what is today Ghana and Ivory Coast.
Ivory Coast has long been dependent on food imports and the 1960s saw a major push to diversify agricultural production. By the 1970s Ivory Coast had earned a reputation as a politically stable and economically viable West African country. Its capital Abidjan had developed into a commercial hub with particular importance for francophone Africa.