Cocoa in Matiguás, Nicaragua
Cocoa in Matiguás, Nicaragua
The big chocolate companies (Nestlé, Mars and Barry-Callebaut) are warning of a future 1 billion kg shortfall in cocoa production by 2020, caused by rising demand for chocolate in new markets such as India and China and reduced crop production due to climate change. There is a global need to create a more sustainable model of cocoa production that will boost productivity so that future demand can be met. Small-scale farmers, who are responsible for 90% of global production, are therefore key to this revolution.
Cocoa production in Nicaragua is growing, but it remains a secondary commodity. La Campesina is a cooperative founded in 2001 and located in Matiguás, Nicaragua. It currently has 406 members spread throughout 30 rural communities.
Besides cocoa, the farmers also grow coffee and wheat, and some also farm livestock. Cocoa is an extra source of revenue for them, but a vital one for making ends meet. They live in isolated areas without access to public transport so some farmers have to rely on mules. Most of their houses lack electricity, and as a result there is a high demand for solar panels.
- Cocoa plant diseases such as Frosty Pod Rod and Black Pod are common. A better breeding program is necessary to create more resistant trees.
- Productivity and quality are quite low due to ageing plantations and poor post-harvesting techniques.
- The farmers cannot afford to buy tools and fertilizers.
- The post-harvest drying process relies mainly on wood ovens, which are expensive and polluting.
- The cooperative warehouses lack the techniques and tools to conduct effective quality controls. Also, they do not have the capacity to cope with current production levels.
- The organisation’s main weaknesses are its lack of visibility and weak management structure.
- The cooperative depends on one single buyer. Diversification would help to stabilize prices.
- Farmer populations are aging. Young people in the community lack educational opportunities to acquire the technical knowledge that would benefit the cooperative in the long term.
- There are very few female members and none of them are in the decision-making bodies.
- 20% of the farmers experience food scarcity at the end of the dry season.
- To reduce the food insecurity, we promote the creation of family gardens so each farmer can grow their own vegetables.
- To fight diseases, we work with the Agro-Economic Research & Education Centre (CATIE) towards the introduction of disease-resistant seedlings.
- To increase productivity, Rikolto promotes Good Agricultural Practices through the Farmer Field Schools (“Escuelas de Campo”).
- To increase quality, we help the farmers to obtain UTZ certificates through the creation of Internal Control Systems.
- To increase storage capacity, we help with the enlargement of the current warehouses. We also equip them with hygrometers and thermometers.
- To strengthen the cooperative organisation, we offer leadership and management courses.
- To increase the visibility of La Campesina, we collaborate in the creation of its own website and Facebook page and in its participation in the National Cocoa Round Table and other forums.
- We work to strengthen the relationship between La Campesina and their main client Ritter Sport, and at the same time we search for other buyers.
- Specifically for young people, we started the project "Yes, youth can", a project that works in three areas: economic empowerment, capacity-building, and leadership and participation. Support will also be provided for production of cocoa, chocolate and organic fertilizers, and promotion of agro-tourism.
Chocolate in the shelves of Belgian supermarket Colruyt
Since this week, Belgian consumers can find milk chocolate and dark chocolate from La Campesina in the racks at supermarket Colruyt, Okay and Spar. The chocolate is made from cocoa beans of the young farmers. With the support of the Collibri Foundation, Colruyt Group’s corporate fund, these young farmers acquire knowledge and skills in modern and sustainable cocoa production techniques.
Over a period of five years, 75 young people will participate in the training project La Juventud Sí Puede (Yes, Youth Can). They all come from an economically vulnerable background, a bit less than half of them, girls. They follow a cocoa programme of 20 days in Honduras, organized by the research institution FHIA and the university CURLA.
In turn, the young people who achieve the diploma,pass the knowledge to other youngsters in their community in Nicaragua via trainings in the field. Thus, another 225 talented youngsters are able to attend good education.
- Bi-monthly meetings are held with Ritter Sport with an special focus on inclusivity
- All of the cocoa farmers’ organisations in Central America (including La Campesina) are now united in a new association called AMACACAO, to defend their interests.
- 95 family gardens have been created.
What do we expect in the long-term?
- The experience of Ritter Sport will inspire other companies to change their purchasing policies.
- Thanks to the National Cocoa Round Table, public policies will facilitate the implementation of a more inclusive cocoa trade in Nicaragua.
- No food shortages among the cocoa farmers.
- The cocoa trade world-wide will be secured thanks to a more sustainable model of production which will be able to cope with the challenges of climate change and meet the increasing demand of new markets.