Gerber Manuel Caal is a young 30-year-old cacao producer.
Originally from Lanquin, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala, he grew up playing and learning among the cacao plantations as this crop has been the economic support of his family for many years.
However, although Gerber and his family worked hard to take care of their plantation, the lack of knowledge about good agricultural practices were an obstacle to reaching the desired production, which was also reflected in the few sales that did not allow them to continue growing and help his wife and two daughters.
Aware of this situation, Gerber decided to take control of the future of his family by joining the MOCCA Program trainings to learn about the good management of cocoa cultivation with the clear objective of increasing its productivity and profitability.
Through Lutheran World Relief, Gerber participated in the Cacao Professional Diploma on «Renovation – Rehabilitation, Agroforestry, Quality and Climate Change in Cacao» taught by CATIE (Tropical Agronomic Center for Research and Education) and the Rafael Landívar University, at the framework of the MOCCA Project in Guatemala.
In addition, the curriculum of the certification also included practical content on agroforestry diagnosis, identification of pests and diseases, and fermentation, drying and processing methods to instruct participants in the quality improvement of their production and the volume of their yields.
Sharing knowledge with cacao farmers
MOCCA-LWR and its partner CATIE completed the cacao Diploma in five countries (Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Ecuador and Peru). The cacao diploma was implemented with a local partner (either a national university or a research institution) and graduated a total of 214 technical staff under academic standards set by CATIE. MOCCA granted full or partial scholarships to 142 students.
The 142 diploma participants agreed to train farmers within their communities after completing the program. Currently, 100 graduates are training about 500 farmers and have delivered 2-4 topics including planting arrangements, fertilization (chemical and organic), pruning, integrated management of pest / diseases and shade management.
Gerber belongs to this group of 100 trainers and now works in the MOCCA project as a community trainer for the Chivite Maya Development Association (ADEMAYACH) sharing his new knowledge with about 50 cacao farmers in his community.
“Cacao is part of my life. I like to teach about good cultivation practices to help my fellow producers to have a better harvest and increase their income, just as I have done in my own planting”, Gerber comments.
Thanks to the knowledge acquired, Gerber and his family have been able to increase the productivity of his farm and have access to a better lifestyle.
Jorge Machado and Milton Uriarte, were also part of the MOCCA Diploma. Jorge is a project field coach for coffee, he heard about the diploma and immediately wanted to join.
“In the field there are producer families that in addition to coffee grow cacao, and many times they belong to a crop association so the technical assistance must be comprehensive for both crops. In this sense the diploma gave me new knowledge and tools and using this with over 30 farmers that produce both crops,” said Jorge.
Meanwhile, Milton, a Cacao MOCCA Field Coach, considered these Diploma, helped him to instruct producers better about pruning and grafts. “I also have even been able to improve my own plot cocoa,” he said while smiling.
We know that Gerber, Jorge and Milton will continue to be an indispensable piece in the development of the MOCCA program in Guatemala, Nicaragua and Perú. The work effort of trainers like them will expand beyond his community in reaching 20 thousand cacao producers and 60 thousand coffee farmers in MOCCA countries.