Lessons learned 

about Swisscontact’s approach to managing value chains

Competitiveness and sustainability


  • The Farm Field Schools (ECA), field visits and demonstration farms proved to be effective methodologies for expanding the use of best farming practices in coffee, cacao and cashew production.
  • The low educational levels of coffee and cashew farmers means that greater accompaniment is needed in the field, especially in relation to product commercialisation.
  • The adoption of solar drying practices improves earnings for coffee producers. It has permitted sales by weight rather than sales by volume. This translates into greater added value, and permits the storage of products, which means better market prices.
  • Wet coffee processing plants utilise technology that improves the quality of coffee. However, their construction and use require more accompaniment.
  • Mechanisms for providing capital to members of beneficiary organisations (solar dryers and wet processing plants) improve the ability of organisations to obtain funding, but greater oversight is needed to ensure payment by all the beneficiaries.
  • Working with IHCAFE to better characterise the profile of its coffee destroyed the myth that El Paraíso Coffee’s is poor quality, but more promotion of its attributes—fragrance, taste, body, acidity and aftertaste—is needed.
  • Having laboratories that measure the quality of coffee improves the negotiating power of different organisations, since there is better control of the purchased raw material, and more information about the special attributes of the coffee.
  • The qualities of specialty coffees facilitates direct links between small-scale coffee farmers and international buyers. The quality is the guarantee, and the required volumes can be small. This also improves the image of the community of origin of specialty coffees.
  • The geographical indication “El Paraíso Coffee” is a legal trademark that facilitates the marketing of an origin coffee. However, legal processes are very cumbersome and can take several years to obtain.
  • The pilot project managing coffee pulp and lixiviation demonstrated that these byproducts can be used to reduce the cost of fertilization and negative impacts on the environment. However, this topic should be part of the curricula in all ECAs, especially given the increase in fertilizer prices worldwide.
  • Soil analysis allowed the development of fertilizer formulas based on crop needs and soil potential, reducing costs overall and improving effectiveness. Such analyses need to be consolidated so that formulas according to geographic region can be developed.
  • Training of cuppers/tasters and baristas in partnership with IHCAFE generated certified skills among young adults and women seeking employment or those interested in setting up businesses.


  • Research about cocoa clone adaptation facilitated the identification of promising materials. This is a key issue, since various cacao clones should be planted to ensure pollination and the production of pods. The national demand is still unsatisfied, which means there are opportunities for growth.
  • The control of variables in harvesting, fermentation and drying cacao led to the production of cacao beans with high quality aroma, making it possible to produce chocolate with high cacao content (70%), nutty notes, citrus and earthy flavors, raw cane sugar notes, a high fat content, clear color and very marked softness.
  • More local chocolate producers are needed to increase local demand and added value.

 Inclusive business models

  • Having the private commercial sector as an ally helped to shift farmers from the coffee intermediary circuit to more inclusive conditions, with prices that reward quality and embedded services. However, in many cases, prior financial commitments impeded the ability of farmers to extricate themselves completely from the use of intermediaries.
  • Technical assistance facilitates the negotiation of inclusive models with commercial enterprises, since they guarantee increased volumes, better quality, and the monitoring of agreements.
  • The characterisation of coffee-growing families illustrated the important role that women play in production, as well as their productive profile.

 Governance and public-private agreements

  • Ongoing dialogue has been effective in generating inter-institutional agreements. However, the spaces for such dialogue were reduced as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

 Managing knowledge and learning

  • Swisscontact’s monitoring and impact evaluation system proved useful in generating key information needed for decision-making. This includes the use of virtual platforms that facilitated data presentation, and managing data integrity.
  • New information and communications technologies such as WhatsApp and social networks also demonstrated their efficacy in promoting technical information. However, the limited access to mobile devices and to internet networks impeded more extensive use in rural areas.
  • Printing technical manuals with visual images improved farmers’ skills, since beneficiaries typically have very low levels of schooling.
  • The Covid-19 pandemic impeded the organisation of fairs to share knowledge, and other forms of commercial outreach. Virtual alternatives should be considered, including electronic auctions, block chains and electronic commerce. 
Most producers in the Departments of El Paraíso, Valle and Choluteca do not manage to make their businesses successful, due principally to exploitation, inadequate harvesting practices and poor knowledge of the market. Fino de aroma cocoa is an alternative crop for coffee growers in El Paraiso, where 51,200 hectares of coffee plantations supply...