Five years ago, we introduced you to Freddy Mairena on the Rikolto website and social media. The farmer is part of a group of young people linked to the cocoa farmer organisation La Campesina in Nicaragua. Since 2017, La Campesina is participating in a training programme that creates job opportunities for young people by adopting sustainable practices in cocoa production. Freddy’s honest and friendly smile can be found today in the promotional images of the Boni "Nicaragua" chocolate in the Colruyt Group retail shops in Belgium. Here is Freddy’s story now: from producer to entrepreneur.
From his first encounter with agroforestry systems in 2017 to the project with the cooperative La Campesina, and the Collibri Foundation from Colruyt Group and Rikolto, Freddy has gained many experiences. He has worked on themes such as agroforestry, youth entrepreneurship, leadership, and communication.
The 33-years-old entrepreneur lives in Manceras, a community almost 200 kilometres from the capital of Nicaragua. There, he cultivates one hectare of organic cocoa under agroforestry systems. He supplies to La Campesina.
Since 2021 he has been producing bio fertilisers and commercialising them with other farmers in his area.
"I have seen the benefits of organic manure on my farm. I used to get 15 pounds of cocoa slime every 15 days. Now, with the foliar liquid organic fertiliser that I am applying, I get 50 pounds of cocoa slime every fortnight", says Freddy.
Freddy runs one of the eight organic fertiliser bio-factories. The producers' organisation subsidised them for producers to increase the productivity of the surrounding cocoa farms.
A litre of bio-fertiliser is sold for the relatively low price of eight córdobas (US$ 0.22).
That price was implemented with the idea that other producers will reap the benefits that he himself makes on his crops. He based the decision on the experience of countries such as El Salvador, where a litre costs two dollars, and 100 kilogrammes of chemical fertiliser costs 2,000 córdobas (US$ 57).
With the income from his enterprise, he manages to pay 20% of the cost of the bio-factory to La Campesina, which costs 8,000 córdobas (US$ 220.14) "I am paying it little by little with what I sell", he says.
"I have all the ingredients to make these products. I prepare the bio fertilisers with mountain microorganisms, semolina, molasses, whey, cocoa slime and various other ingredients."
For Freddy, the application of bio fertilisers is a real experience. "I can see how the soil reactivates and starts to create micro-organism beds". Now he no longer has to go to the mountains to look for them, because he has the raw material on his own farm.
He is one of the 32 young people linked to the La Campesina cooperative who have been trained in the courses on cocoa production under agroforestry systems (SAF).
Those courses are taught at the Centro Universitario Regional del Litoral Atlántico (CURLA) Honduras and organised by Rikolto through the project with the Colruyt Group and Collibri Foundation.
"I am the leading promoter of the cooperative and", Freddy says. In addition to being a leader, he is also the farmer organisation's internal organic inspector. Freddy started producing 400 litres of liquid biofertiliser per month. His goal in the coming months is to implement both two-litre and four-litre packages. In addition to the liquid bio fertiliser, he will also produce bokashi (solid organic fertiliser) and compost to use on his farm.
"I have the responsibility to share my knowledge on cocoa management and organic agriculture, and my experience with implementing agroforestry cocoa systems, and bio-factories. I raise awareness about the benefits of biofertilisers to (transitioning) organic farmers. With all the knowledge I now have and what I am implementing, I know that I am going to be a good producer, helping my father and my community."
For more information about Rikolto's work on inclusive value chains in Latin America, please contact our colleague Fausto Rodríguez, Cocoa director for our cocoa and coffee programme in Latin America.