Sustainable cocoa and coffee

Living incomes from cocoa and coffee in Latin America

March 21, 2024

Latin America is a complex region with growing inequality. However, it is investing in sustainability, especially in strategic economic sectors such as cocoa and coffee. In Latin America and the Caribbean, 14 million jobs are dependent on the coffee industry, and at least 1.7 million people are dependent on or directly benefit from the production of cocoa.

Despite its importance, the livelihoods of producing families are threatened by social tensions, the effects of climate change and food insecurity. As a result, the cost of living and doing business continues to rise. Both crops face common challenges (productivity, innovation, quality, deforestation, etc.) in countries such as Ecuador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Peru.

To make a real difference, we need to see income and decent living conditions as two sides of the same coin. Cocoa and coffee can be at the heart of the solution, as value chains that can provide living incomes and promote sustainable food systems. This can only happen if we work together with producer organisations and associations, companies, and governments.

Icon Place



Ecuador: Zamora Chincipe, Esmeraldas, Manabí, Guayas, El Oro, Los Rios, Imbabura, Pichincha, Carchi; Peru: Junín, Selva Central, Cajamarca

Icon Scope


18,238 farmer families, 29 buyers, 36 farmer organisations

Icon Duration




  • In Ecuador, more than 85% of cocoa and coffee producers have low incomes and are vulnerable to the effects of climate change. In addition to low diversification and loss of biodiversity, smallholders face limited access to niche markets and high interest rates on financial products (10%/year). Most producers are not linked to cooperatives or associations: this is the case for only 19% of coffee producers and 7% of cocoa producers.
  • In Honduras, most coffee and cocoa producers live below the poverty line (USD 1.53/day compared to a desirable USD 2.72/day). The market for business development services for agricultural organisations is limited. In addition, a large part of the country's economy depends on low-value-added agricultural exports, in rural areas that are being abandoned and that are technologically stagnant.
  • In Guatemala, inequalities lead to high levels of poverty, particularly among women, youth and migrants. Cocoa production is increasing (with an estimated 15% annual increase in area) and is part of the local diet, although producers need to diversify their production and markets. Coffee has played an important role in reducing unemployment: it provides 500,000 jobs. However, private investment is needed to introduce low-carbon products with high market value.  
  • In Peru, the dynamism of the agricultural sector was key after COVID-19, although the country suffered a 10-year setback in the fight against poverty. Faced with the challenge of economic recovery, producers have to change their business vision. The government and businesses need to work together on a common agenda, scaling up solutions to the limited access to finance, availability of technical assistance, and a weak institutional environment.

What is a living income?

The Living Income Community of Practice defines living income as: "The net annual income required for a household in a particular place to afford a decent standard of living for all members of that household. "Elements of a decent standard of living include: food, water, housing, education, healthcare, transport, clothing, and other essential needs including provision for unexpected events".

Read more about the concept

Our approach

Rikolto contributes to closing the living income gap for farming families in the cocoa and coffee sectors. In Ecuador, Honduras, Guatemala and Peru, we co-create climate-smart solutions that contribute to family food security and business competitiveness in local and global markets. We bring producer organisations closer to industry standards and work with companies on inclusive business practices, including women and youth in value chains. Read more about our strategies:

  • We increase sustainable production: we test innovations and climate-smart practices aimed at reducing carbon and water footprints. We promote agroforestry systems to restore landscapes. We support the diversification of production, both for own consumption and for access to other sources of income. We support professional producer organisations and prepare them to meet local and international market standards.
  • We facilitate access to inclusive markets: We co-create inclusive business models, organise comprehensive training programmes for producer organisations' leaders, and for youth and women in agribusiness. We assess producer organisations' business plans and broker relationships between them and companies.
  • We create an enabling environment for sectoral change: We bring financial and non-financial service providers closer to the agricultural sector. Through multi-stakeholder platforms, we generate evidence and business models. We advocate for shared public policy agendas for living incomes and youth and women's inclusion.
No items found.

Expected results by 2026

  1. Contribute to the growth of the agricultural sector by improving the access of producers to the public and private financial system. This will be done by working with financial institutions (ethical banking) to develop financial products adapted to the coffee and cocoa production.
  2. Promote the conservation of forests, associativity and the implementation of traceability/certification systems within agroforestry systems, in order to facilitate access to differentiated markets and better incomes for producers.
  3. Promote productive diversification of coffee/cocoa with crops that can be grown in cocoa and coffee growing landscapes, and facilitate market linkages (short chains) for these crops, hence contributing to the country's climate commitments (e.g. carbon neutral country by 2050). This has several benefits: reduced vulnerability to climate change, improved profitability/resilience of farms, food security for families and communities, access to nutritious and sustainable products for local consumers.
  4. Mainstream the implementation of IWA29 through coffee/cocoa policies to enable organisations to access globalised markets and agricultural services (projects/programmes, incentives, credits, tax benefits).
  5. Evidence and scalable models for impact, promoting regulatory frameworks and agendas for innovation, women/youth inclusion and financial inclusion.

Reach out to us!

Do you want to know more about our cocoa and coffee programme? Don't hesitate to reach out to any of our colleagues

  • Napoleón Molina | Sustainable Cocoa and Coffee programme director |‍
  • Rainiero Lec | Sustainable Cocoa and Coffee Programme Coordinator in Guatemala |‍
  • Lith Montes | Sustainable Cocoa and Coffee Programme Coordinator in Peru |‍
  • Ricardo Garces | Sustainable Cocoa and Coffee Programme Coordinator in Ecuador |

*For more information about the SCC programme in Honduras, please contact Napoleón Molina.

Read more

Who do we work with?

Our partners

We co-create together with

  • Honduras: PCSH, Fundación Chocolats Halba, Ihcafé, Conacafé, Sustainable Harvest, Supermercados La Colonia, Kampani, Alianza Bioversity/CIAT, Root Capital
  • Guatemala: Agexport, Rainforest Alliance, Promecafé, CLAC, Alianza Bioversity/CIAT,  IICA
  • Perú: Sustainable Food Lab, Verité, Candela Perú, Óbolo Chocolate, Ethiquable, Bellvas, Allegro Coffee, EZA, Cassiopeia Coffee, Sustainable Harvest, AMEA, Hacofco, Producer Direct
  • Ecuador: ECOM, UNDP Ecuador, Conexión, Ethiquable, Bioandino, Café Minerva, Cafecom
Chocolats Halba
La Colonia Supermarket
Rainforest Alliance
Sustainable Food Lab
Óbolo Chocolate


Fausto Rodriguez

Cocoa programme director in Latin America

Stories from the ground

Discover more stories