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 objective is 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 focuses 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, is supporting the project. Local Ecuadoran partners include the UNOCACE cocoa farmer cooperative and ECOTOP, a consulting firm specializing in agroforestry.
The project is applying a three-pronged approach:
Cocoa farmers receive intensive agroforestry training and advisory services over the medium term. They gain access to new CAN seedlings and financial services to be able to procure better equipment.
The UNOCACE cocoa cooperative and its member organisations are receiving support to improve post-harvest handling in order 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.
Project progress: mid- 2015 to end-2017
2017 - 2020
Swiss Foundation for Technical Cooperation
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