A week of cocoa tree pruning

A week of cocoa tree pruning


Monday April 13, 2015, 7:30 am. The sun is shining bright. On the site of APROCA, some farmers are making preparations for the processing of the cocoa. Others are still arriving. On motorcycle, in the back of a pickup truck, by bus or on foot. Everyone knows today's agenda: the first day of pruning in the cocoa farms.

There they are: young men, women - some with their baby, members of the Association of Organic Cocoa Producers Atacames Canton (APROCA). Also some students from a nearby agricultural school join the training as part of their internship.

In the meantime, APROCA technicians had already done a checkup of the pruning tools and had loaded them into the van. We climbed in the back of the truck and took off. The beauty of the landscapes is amazing: the colors of the hills, the fauna and flora of Esmeraldas. It’s nickname the "green province" doesn’t come as a surprise. And let me not forget the warmth of the people around me. They’re all family, relatives, friends or neighbours of each other. All ride long, they laugh and tease each other.

One Friday, at the end of the day, a colleague had suggested that it would be a good idea to attend a pruning workshop. I had in mind to spend two days with the farmers, take some pictures and return to Quito. I stayed for almost a week … I attended three workshops on pruning and one in "micro management business". I took many pictures and talked to farmers. For the first time I really felt like sharing a part of life with the farmers of APROCA.

"We all know why we're here”, Raul, a APROCA technician, begins the workshop: “it is very important to perform pruning once or twice a year. Sometimes we forget, but the cocoa pod needs light. And, although these big trees look good, they prevent the sunlight to reach the bottom. The branches and leaves become very dense and lose the power needed to carry more fruits. " Raul emphasizes that it is important not only to see how the process of pruning is done, but to learn it all in practice. "Some time ago there was a team of expert cocoa pruners," he says. "These technicians came to perform the entire process, but none of the farmers of APROCA really learned to operate the machines independently. With the support of VECO Andino they were able to buy six machines: 4 heavy-duty chainsaws, one small one and one motor scythe. Today we came to teach our partners how to to operate the machines to perform a pruning on their farms and to show how the maintenance of the machines is done.”

They shared a brief explanation on safety precautions and got started. With the help of an APROCA-technician, a farmer started cutting old or redundant branches.

Calixto Romelu, APROCA manager, insists: "You should know that the machines are not only owned by APROCA’s, but by all of all of you, members of APROCA. To make use of the machines, you simply come to our office to fill out a small form to rent them. You pay 3 dollar a day as compensation for the use of a machine. The money is used to pay the maintenance of the equipment.”

Another remarkable person in APROCA is Maritza Tello, coordinator of the Relevo Generacional (next generation farmers) project. She is the one who encourages and supports young farmers. She stresses that it is vital for young people to participate, learn and work in the organization. Thanks to a survey she conducted among all members of APROCA, we now know that the average age of the members is 51. This shows once again the importance of generational change by strengthening that group with 35 young members.

Maritza stayed all week for the pruning: in the morning she accompanied us and cooked for the whole team of "workers / trimmers". In the afternoon she continued her work at the office of APROCA and in the evening she went to the city of Esmeraldas to attend a workshop on entrepreneurship with some young farmers of APROCA.

In short:

  • Pruning workshops were held from Monday to Thursday 13 -16 April 2015 in cocoa farms in the canton Atacames, Esmeraldas, Ecuador.
  • In total, about 80 people participated.
  • VECO Andino supports APROCA technicians in the areas of pruning, fertilizing and irrigation.
  • With the support of VECO Andino, APROCA could buy 6 machines (4 heavy-duty chainsaws, a small one and one motor scythe).

Siska Simone Marrécau, VECO Andino