In 2021, 85 Ecuadorian farming families who are members of the "Unión Regional de Organizaciones Campesinas del Litoral" - UROCAL - obtained a payment of USD 4,100 per metric tonne (MT) of organic cocoa, a price 39% above market prices.
The sale closed with Ethiquable rewarded the good practices of the organisation, as well as the quality and productivity standards achieved by UROCAL with the support of the Maximising Opportunities for Coffee and Cocoa in the Americas (MOCCA) programme of Technoserve and Lutheran World Relief, implemented by Rikolto and funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
In the second half of 2021, Ethiquable purchased 23MT of organic cocoa from UROCAL, provided technical assistance to producers and supported them with the purchase of organic inputs.
Ethiquable is a cooperative that supports small organic and fair trade producers, maintaining commercial ties in 20 southern Andean countries such as Ecuador, where the alliance with MOCCA was born.
In 2020, this alliance was established with the programme to improve farm management through complementary training for farmers.
"Our training ensures high-quality production that allows for better negotiating conditions and long-term relationships, in this case with Ethiquable. In this way we ensure a fair income for UROCAL members, producers and families," explains José Luis Cueva, manager of MOCCA in Ecuador and member of the Rikolto team.
UROCAL was founded 46 years ago, bringing together 250 producers. It maintains important links with international organisations, which has opened the doors to markets in France and Italy, countries where buyers pay a higher price compared to the market under fair trade, sustainable and associative production schemes.
For this reason, since the 1990s UROCAL has focused on the marketing and production of certified organic cocoa and bananas, and since 2000 on Fair Trade.
Eighty per cent of its members cultivate under agroforestry systems, i.e. they work in production units that bring together various types of crops, both fruit and forest. This form of land use improves productivity and relies on sustainable practices, maintaining soil structure and fertility, and mitigating damage from pests or diseases.
"We work permanently with our producers to improve the production yields of cocoa, bananas, etc., and the quality of the products for marketing, in order to achieve recognition of the work reflected in the price. The crops of our small producers are produced in agroforestry systems. In each production unit there is a diversity of fruit trees, timber, cocoa, Musaceae, short-cycle crops, poultry, flavouring crops, etc. The production of organic fertilisers with materials from the farm itself has become a cultural practice, because the production process involves families, neighbours, fellow producers, women and young people, through the mingas, which allows us to strengthen the values of associativity", explains Sonia Guachizaca, manager of UROCAL.
She explains that the contribution of MOCCA generates "motivation through the development of training programmes and the implementation of a nursery that will serve to propagate safe seeds and productive genetic material, with a tendency towards the national variety of fine aromas, which is our star product and by which we identify ourselves".
UROCAL is made up of 11 grassroots associations, and we currently trade with four of them. The organisation has a "productive and consolidated" relationship with Ethiquable, which renews annual contracts for the sale of cocoa and banana puree.
"With regard to organic production, we believe that organisations must improve their productivity, and therefore we are interested in projects that can contribute to the improvement of production and complement our efforts," says Nicolás Elberhart, Ethiquable's representative in Latin America.
Alliances like this allow producers to improve their profitability, access to training, implementation of infrastructure and a direct connection with organisations interested in their products.
"The training helps the producer to generate technical capacities to improve crops and economic use (...) We value MOCCA's human and committed contingent - they carry out very efficient and timely management and follow-up", Sonia points out.
The programme contributed to the introduction of quality processes in a total of 450 hectares. The topics covered in the training provided by MOCCA include harvesting, post-harvesting, fertilisation, pest management and accounting, farm management and governance, among others.
"What we find interesting is that the actions are aimed directly at the producers' organisation and that this also allows them to improve their administrative capacities or their management capacities in general," says Elberhart.
The main drivers of this alliance are organic production and fair trade, which have a direct impact on producers. Cueva stresses that this shared interest is the basis of an inclusive business where both parties invest time and effort, allowing for long-term relationships where value is generated for the producers.
To date, MOCCA has established partnerships with traders and organisations through which it trains around 4,000 cocoa producers in Ecuador. These open up opportunities with higher value markets, technical assistance, research, access to quality genetic material and catalytic financing models.
(Pictures: courtesy of UROCAL)