Sustainable cocoa and coffee

Strengthening the cocoa sector in Ecuador

March 15, 2023

Ecuador’s most desired cocoa by chocolate producers, is its national cocoa, also known as Theobroma cocoa L. However, due to plagues and diseases, other varieties were introduced, giving origin to vigorous and productive hybrids. These products are lower in quality. Initiatives are thus set up to recover the national variety.

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Zamora Chincipe, Esmeraldas, Manabí, Guayas, El Oro and Los Rios

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2561 producers from 5 different organisations

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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).

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.

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.

Fortaleza del Valle emptying cocoa bag for fermentation
A worker of Fortaleza del Valle's cooperative emptying the bag of cocoa beans into the fermentation box.

ECUADOR Fortaleza del Valle emptying cocoa box
Emptying the cocoa fermentation box in Fortaleza del Valle

MOCCA: a recipe for maximising opportunities for cocoa 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 Programme 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).

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Our approach

We support 5 cooperatives: UOPROCAE in Esmeraldas, Fortaleza del Valle in Manabí, UNOCACE in Guayas, El Oro y Los Rios, and APEOSAE and APECAP in Zamora Chinchipe.

UNOCACE's members describing the cocoa production process in the cooperative.

  • We strengthenand professionalise cocoa organisations 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 organisations to be successfully involved in very competitive marketing systems, in which sustainability, quality and meeting acquired commitments is demanded.
  • We promote the 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.
  • 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.
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What have we achieved?

Uoprocae at Salón del Chocolate 2019
UOPROCAE and Conexión members at the 2019 edition of Salón del Chocolate in Lima, Perú.

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 ESPOL University to

  1. define the cadmium levels in cocoa in the different areas
  2. to set up pilots of mitigation of cadmium through innovative fertilization processes

A group of Fortaleza del Valle cocoa farmers with Rikolto staff during a field visit.

Who do we work with?

Corporación Fortaleza del Valle
Pacari Chocolate
Chocolats Halba


José Luis Cueva

MOCCA project coordinator | Ecuador

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