Strengthening the cocoa sector in Ecuador
Strengthening the cocoa sector in Ecuador
The cocoa culture in Ecuador is ancient. It is known that when the Spaniards arrived, they already saw big cocoa trees on the Pacific coast, which would demonstrate their presence and use before the arrival of the Europeans.
Nowadays, many varieties of cocoa are grown in Ecuador, however the variety known as ‘national’ (Theobroma cacao L.), is the one most desired by chocolate producers, because of the quality of its beans and the finesse of its flavour. However, the severe attack of plagues and diseases has caused losses and other varieties were introduced. Over time, these varieties have been crossed with the national cocoa, giving origin to vigorous and productive hybrids, but whose fruits have a lower aromatic quality than the national one. Therefore, there are initiatives aimed at recovering the national variety, which is one of those most in demand on both national and international markets.
The National Cocoa Complex, very sui generis, conserves the floral taste that characterizes it, but behaves like a Trinitarian cocoa. It fine aromatic cocoa has distinctive flavour and taste characteristics sought by chocolate makers. It represents 5% of the global cocoa production. Thanks to its geographical conditions and its richness in terms of biologic resources, Ecuador is the quintessential producer of this variety. This type of bean is used in all refined chocolates. According to data of the Fine Aromatic Cocoa Observatory for Latin America, Ecuador stands out for being the prime global exporter of this type of emblematic product, having over 62% of the world production of fine aromatic cocoa.
The current situation of cocoa production and export in Ecuador
Cocoa is one of Ecuador’s main export products. The cocoa sector employs 5% of rural economically active population, thus constituting a fundamental base of the family economy of the Coast, Andes foothills and the Amazon area. It involves around 150,000 families. Most, approximately 70%, are small-scale producers, 20% being medium and 10% large producers.
Total exports of Ecuador in recent years have risen from 235,000 tonnes in 2014 to 315,000 tonnes in 2018 (ANECACAO 2020), and the trend continues upwards with an average of 8% per year. Currently, Ecuador is between the third and fourth place of world cocoa exporters (after Ivory Coast and Ghana, and in a draw with Indonesia).
Strengthening and professionalizing cocoa organizations countrywide. We apply the SCOPE tools to assess the business capacities, and, based on the results, elaborate an improvement plan with the organisation – supporting Strategic Planning, Business Plans and ongoing training in Technical-Administrative Processes, and preparing organizations to be successfully involved in very competitive marketing systems, in which sustainability, quality and meeting acquired commitments is demanded.
We promote implementation and/or enhancement of Agroforestry Systems in which cocoa is the main crop. We also propose the cultivation of other crops, in association with cocoa, so that farmers do not only have to live from the income derived from cocoa.
MOCCA: a recipe for maximizing opportunities for cacao in the Americas
Rikolto is implementing MOCCA cacao activities in Ecuador, together with Lutheran World Relief (LWR) who leads the cocoa part of MOCCA in the 6 countries. The MOCCA Program is a five-year initiative (2018- 2023) funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA´s) Food for Progress Program.
MOCCA will help farmers to overcome the barriers that limit their capacity to effectively rehabilitate and renovate their coffee and cacao plants – increasing their productivity, while improving their marketing capacity, incomes, and livelihoods within these key value chains. The MOCCA Program is led Technoserve in consortium with Lutheran World Relief (LWR).
Map of Ecuadorean cocoa projects
To achieve more efficient chains with a more equitable value distribution, we promote inclusive businesses between our partners and socially, economically and environmentally responsible companies. In this context, we are supporting an experience of this kind between UOPROCAE and the company Conexión Chocolate (Chocolate Connection). Implementing the LINK methodology, we document the entire process in order to create evidence of inclusive business models with a strong attention towards inclusion of young people.
Taking into account the next generation is immersed in all our actions, in a logic to achieve the involvement of young people at every stage of the cocoa value chain. We promote their presence at technical-administrative level, but always and fundamentally at the level of decision making for their organizations. To achieve this goal, we have influenced in the restructuration of the bylaws and/ or regulations that allow involvement of young people, and we support productive-type enterprises that are proposed in youth groups (Case: youth chocolate bar; cocoa granola, cocoa liquor, etc.).
In order to create the conditions for promoting a more sustainable and inclusive cocoa sector, we work together with actors of both the private and the public sector, such as the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock and the Ministry of Production, Foreign Trade, Investment and Fishery. Within this framework, we came to an agreement with the National Association of Exporters of Cocoa and Industrialized Products of Ecuador (ANECACAO), which represents 80% of cocoa exporters in Ecuador. We support them in their lobbywork towards the government, such as the regulations on cadmium of the European Union and with the setting up of the National Plan of Competitiveness Improvement.
Who is involved in the project?
2561 farmers from 5 producer organisations are directly benefiting from our interventions:
- Unión de Productores de Cacao Arriba de Esmeraldas ( UOPROCAE) in the Esmeraldas Province - 435 members
- Corporación Fortaleza del Valle in Manabí Province - 983 members
- Unión Nacional de Organizaciones Cacaoteras del Ecuador (UNOCACE) in the Provinces of Guayas, El Oro and Los Ríos - 1001 members
- Federación de Pequeños Exportadores Agropecuarios Orgánicos del Sur de la Amazonía Ecuatoriana- (APEOSAE) in Zamora Chinchipe Province - 109 members
- Asociación de Pequeños Cafetaleros Ecológicos del Sur (APECAP) in the Province of Zamora Chinchipe - 33 members
What have we already achieved?
Together with our partners, we have been working a lot on the creation of the Cocoa Competitiveness Improvement Plan and getting the cocoa sector in Ecuador in line with the new regulations on cadmium of the European Union.
We have built a research-action system together with the organizations and the EPSOI University to
- define the cadmium levels in cocoa in the different areas
- to set up pilots of mitigation of cadmium through innovative fertilization processes