Cocoa in Olancho, Honduras
The big chocolate companies (Nestlé, Mars and Barry-Callebaut) are warning of future cocoa shortages caused by the rising demand for chocolate in Asian markets and shrinking plantations as a result of climate change. On the other hand, cocoa farmers don't earn enought to invest in the future of their plantations. There is a global need for a more sustainable production model that will boost productivity so that future demand can be met. Small-scale farmers, who are responsible for 90% of global production on their hands, are key to this revolution.
Olancho is the biggest region in Honduras, but it is sparsely populated. Its economy is mainly based on extensive ranching complemented with the cultivation of staple grains and coffee. The region has a serious deforestation problem: it loses 3% of its forest land every year. The government has put in place a strategy to reverse this trend which includes the creation of new cocoa plantations. In this way, the new forest will generate income for the farmers in a win-win situation.
Our main partner in the area is APROSACAO. This organization founded in 2009 is located in the city of Catacamas in the centre of Olancho. It has 427 members in 4 areas: Cuyamel, Rio Tinto, Rio Blanca and Poncaya. The cocoa trees are new and still in the process of becoming fully productive. The introduction of the crop has been supported by Swiss company Chocolats Halba, which is also the only potential buyer at the moment.
Besides this major export project, the association has created a small women’s cooperative dedicated to the local market. The business is called Chocolan and is already producing chocolate bars, cocoa powder and “pinolillo” (a mix of cocoa and corn powder).
The farmers cultivate other crops which are their main income. Cocoa is seen as a way of diversifying production and increasing revenue. On average, farmers assign 1 hectare to cocoa. A significant percentage of farmers suffer periods of food insecurity between harvests.
- The farmers are inexperienced with the cocoa crop and the full production costs are still unknown.
- The producers need Fair trade and Organic certifications to export the cocoa.
- 30% of the farmers suffer food insecurity from May to July due to the low productivity of their vegetable gardens.
- Women are under-represented in the organization because the majority of landowners are male.
- Young people lack the educational opportunities to acquire technical knowledge that would benefit the cooperative in the long term.
- The warehouses and other post-harvest facilities are not constructed yet.
- Neither the farmers’ organization nor the farmers themselves have enough market knowledge to engage in profitable negotiations with other stakeholders.
- There is only one buyer, which makes the farmers very dependent.
- Deforestation is a threat to the region. Olancho loses more than 1000 hectares of forest annually.
- Climate change is leading to longer drought periods in the summer.
- To stimulate youth involvement and at the same time increase the quality of the product, we will train young adults to become local technicians so they can supervise compliance with Internal Control Systems (ICS).
- Thanks to the ICS and with the help of the Bio Latina certifying company, we will help farmers to obtain and maintain their Fair Trade and Organic qualifications.
- We will promote exchanges with functioning cocoa farmers’ organisations in Nicaragua so APROSACAO can learn about their strategies and learn from their success.
- We will give entrepreneurial and management courses to the farmers’ organisation and also to the farmers through Farmer Field Schools.
- To stop deforestation, we will encourage the farmers to expand their cocoa fields with an agroforestry method that combines cocoa trees with mahogany, teak and cedar.
- We will help APROSACAO to raise funds to construct post-harvest facilities and warehouses.
- We will work to strengthen the relationship between the cooperative and their main client, Chocolats Halba. We will also help them to find additional buyers.
- We will help APROSACAO to increase their influence in the Regional Olancho Cocoa Round Table and other national forums.
- We will integrate gender equality into APROSACAO’s agenda, paying special attention to strengthening the new women’s cooperative Chocolan and making it more secure.
- To improve food security, we will promote micro-watering projects for the farmers’ vegetable gardens managed by Pastoral de Juticalpa.
- To adapt to the longer drought periods, we will create a long-term drip irrigation plan for the fields.
- 4 ware houses have been constructed in time for the first harvest.
- The first harvest has been sold to Halba with good quality standards. A non-exclusive contract has been signed.
- APROSACAO is leading the regional cocoa round table.
What do we expect in the long-term?
- The education program to train young people to be technicians will ensure APROSACAO’s future.
- The new irrigation system will protects the fields from the effects of climate change.
- The deforestation trend currently affecting Olancho will be reversed.
- The farmers’ profitable partnership with Chocolats Halba will motivate other companies to become more inclusive.
- The global cocoa trade will be made more secure thanks to a more sustainable production model that can cope with the challenges of climate change and the increasing demand from new markets.