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Dynamic agroforestry: smallholder farmers growing fine cocoa (FINCA)

A large percentage of the Ecuadoran rural population lives in poverty and is constituted mostly by smallholder farmers. Growing fine cocoa presents an opportunity to climb out of poverty with a secure income. Cacao Nacional Arriba (CNA) has a longstanding tradition in Ecuador and is highly prized on international markets for its exquisite taste. But cocoa farmers face daunting challenges: their productivity is insufficient, bean quality varies, and not enough young people are available to work the fields. Furthermore, plants suffer from ageing genetic material and there is not enough expert guidance. Often, farmers give up their plants or switch to growing low-value staples and practice monoculture farming.

The Project

The project objective was to help both experienced and new, young cocoa farmers to plant high-quality, fine CNA-variety cocoa in sufficient quantities and of adequate biological quality. The project focused on the dynamic agroforestry approach, which involves planting a targeted mix of perennial tree crops (fruit and nut trees) and integrating annual agricultural crops in the same space. This not only increases plant resilience in the face of new climate change risks, but also improves long-term income opportunities for smallholder farmers. The programme is connecting with international demand by promoting productive native fine cocoa varieties. Therefore, the Swiss chocolate manufacturer Chocolats Halba, a cooperative business, were supporting the project. Local Ecuadoran partners include the UNOCACE cocoa farmer cooperative and ECOTOP, a consulting firm specializing in agroforestry.

The project was applying a three-pronged approach:

  • training young CNA cocoa farmers as extension agents in dynamic agroforestry who will then advise other cocoa farmers
  • providing participating cocoa farmers with tools and CNA seedlings
  • preparing farmers to implement the dynamic agroforestry approach in their fields by the end of 2019

Objectives 2017-2019


  • 600 producers trained in dynamic agroforestry
  • 12 promoters will have learned and are now extending the dynamic agroforestry technique  to other farmers
  • The UNOCACE cocoa farmer cooperative and its member organisations will receive business management training


  • CNA productivity will have increased by 50% and cocoa bean quality will have improved.
  • 600 cocoa farmers increase incomes and thereby improve quality of life for their families.
  • Younger generations are brought into the coffee production process. The 40 promoters extending their knowledge to other farmers are mostly young.
  • The agroforestry system will be applied on 600 hectares. Biodiversity of fine cocoa varieties increases, as does their productivity.

Project activities

Cocoa farmers receive intensive agroforestry training and advisory services over the medium term. They gain access to new CNA seedlings and financial services to be able to procure better equipment.
The UNOCACE cocoa cooperative and its member organisations receive support to improve post-harvest handling to ensure cocoa quality. This enhances productivity of the cocoa plants and significantly increases farmer incomes over the medium term, making the cocoa sector more attractive to younger generations.


Results since 2015

  • 482 farmers have renovated 392.4 hectares of their farmland applying the dynamic agroforestry approach. By the end of 2019 396 producers with a total of 337 hectares were still active in the project and highly motivated to continue applying dynamic agroforestry.
  • 340 390 fine aroma cocoa plants have been planted.
  • 24 900 fruit plants are part of the renovation of the plots.
  • 23 970 timber plants are planted.
  • The annual income per hectare of renovated farmland increased by 1 369 USD on average. 
  • Farmers are more resilient to climatic variability and fluctuations in the cocoa world market prices because in addition to cocoa they can harvest cash crops such as bananas and vegetables throughout the year. 
  • FINCA has been fully integrated into the farmer association UNOCACE who will keep the facilitators to advice the producers and monitor the quality of their cocoa in the future.

Project partner

  • Chocolats Halba

Project countries

  • Ecuador

Project links

Project duration

2017 - 2020


  • SDC
  • Chocolats Halba
  • Coop Nachhaltigkeitsfonds
  • Bjorg Bonterre et Compagnie

Working area


Swiss Foundation for Technical Cooperation
Hardturmstrasse 123
CH-8005 Zurich

Tel. +41 44 454 17 17
Fax +41 44 454 17 97
E-Mail info@STOP-SPAM.swisscontact.org