A new generation of cocoa producers in Central America
Nicaragua, especially in its central area, is the second poorest country of Latin America. Has cocoa the potential to change living conditions of the farmers? The Nicaraguan cocoa has managed to be recognized as “fine-flavoured cocoa”, however, this potential is endangered because farmers are aging (average age is 58 years), and the cocoa trees they grow are sensitive to diseases and have a low productivity.
In this context, about 11,000 producers are dedicated to the cocoa culture; more than half of them organised in farmer organisations or cooperatives (57%), the others are individual producers. 20% of their income comes from cocoa. This percentage could increase if they start adopting agroforestry practices: combining the cocoa trees with other crops to diversify their sources of income.
On top of these limiting factors, women as well as young people in rural communities are faced with complex obstacles, such as the difficult access to land, to credit, work and to participation in decision-making. This obliges them to consider migrating to the city as their only way out, exposing themselves to various risk factors.
Therefore, there is the challenge and the opportunity to motivate youngsters to actively participating in the cocoa value chain.
Rikolto and the Collibri Foundation join forces for the future of the young cocoa farmers
Rikolto together with the Nicaraguan cooperative La Campesina and the Belgian supermarkets chain Colruyt Group (through its Collibri Foundation) promote a training programme for the cocoa producing youngsters.
75 young cocoa farmers of Honduras and Nicaragua participate in various trainings to innovate in cocoa production and complete experiences they have accumulated in the management of their family farms. In turn, they will train their peers in their communities of origin.
"One day I will be a technician of the cocoa cooperative La Campesina" says Nedelin Mairena, a young cocoa farmer (20 years). She participates in the third edition of the course "Production of Cocoa under agroforestry systems", with youth from Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala.
"I learn how to grow sustainable cocoa and I have a safe market"
The programme includes an export agreement for the cocoa produced between the young men and women partners of La Campesina, and Colruyt Group. The young people apply modern and sustainable production and handling techniques for the cocoa, which is then transformed into chocolate for the supermarket’s consumers in Belgium.
Listen to what the youngsters have to say about this project! (video in Spanish)
The programme contains 4 stages:
- Education programme. Young people are selected by the producer organizations to participate in the programme “Cocoa production in agroforestry systems”, the aim of which is to provide producers with the necessary knowledge and skills to produce cocoa in accordance with the needs of the international market.
- Exchange of knowledge. Upon returning to their community, the youngsters meet with technicians of the cooperative in order to organize practical workshops for other young cocoa farmers.
- From theory to practice. After the graduate, the youngsters return to the cooperatives to provide technical assistance and to replicate the knowledge in the communities through field schools.
- Expanding the network of young innovators in cocoa! In alliance with CURLA, we aspire to sharing knowledge with other institutions and creating a regional network of cocoa education in Central America.
The project runs until 2021 and, in the first phase, targets 75 young people in the area of different cooperatives:
- 35 young people from La Campesina (Nicaraguan productive cocoa cooperative)
- 20 young people from Ríos de Agua Viva (cooperative producer of Nicaraguan coffee)
- 20 young people from the Honduran Cocoa Producers Association of Cacao APROSACAO
Also, the 300 extra young people participate in trainings in a second phase:
- 125 youngsters from La Campesina
- 50 youngsters from Ríos de Agua Viva
- 50 youngsters from APROSACAO
In addition, the programme will also extend to young people from Caribbean cocoa producer organizations such CROPROASERSO in Honduras.
The different training modules are designed for and taught to the young people by the Honduran Foundation for Agricultural Research (FIHA) and the Regional University Centre of the Atlantic Coast (CURLA).
Until today, the goals set out in the project have been exceeded, with more participants than expected and other elements of impact:
- 73 young people have participated in this course on cacao production under agroforestry systems.
- 150 youngsters have new theoretical-practical knowledge due to the fact that the young participants to the courses are replicating their knowledge.
I am excited to be recognized by others in my village. I now have these new ideas and learnings, and I am motivated and ready to apply new knowledge for the handling of my cacao plot
- Productivity of the crops of the young participants to the courses, increases with 50%,
- Increase of 10 % in the productivity of the Cooperative La Campesina thanks to the courses the young people received.
- Increase of 20 % of participation of young members of their respective cooperatives.
I spent almost the whole month with the youngsters in the 2019 course. Is incredible to see how even the agronomists from the cooperatives gain new knowledge. They were surprised to learn how the things they've always been doing were not correct