Ecuador is recognized worldwide for its outstanding national fine aroma cacao. Historically, it is one of the most economically and culturally important products in the country.
In 2011 Olam Ecuador began marketing cacao from small farmers in 8 provinces of the country; as of 2014 they started their sustainability programs in alliance with different clients.
Two years ago Olam Ecuador and MOCCA started working together in a co-financing, benefiting 650 small producers located in the provinces of Guayas, Los Rios and Esmeraldas. This alliance is one of the Matching Grants between Lutheran World Relief / Corus Intl.
Cacao production and the family economy are strengthened through capacity building for the sustainable management of the crop, applying organic practices, agroforestry and rehabilitation with selected cocoa genetic material.
A successful example of this joint work is the 65-year-old farmer Mr. Luis Olmedo Garcia Gómez and his family, who has been growing cacao since 1994 on the farm that was inherited from his parents, located in the community of San Alejo in the province of Guayas.
He had little knowledge of pruning, rehabilitation, and fertilization practices. He had no specialized tools or money to carry out these activities or to hire labor.
Dynamic Agri-forestry systems allow income diversification
With the accompaniment and training of Luis Garcia and other leading producers throughout the country, the program has been incorporating an innovative model of regenerative agriculture based on the development of dynamic agroforestry systems.
“In the past, women of this community were more involved in household activities such as cooking, washing clothes, sweeping, and taking care of the children. Now, they sell the fruit in El Deseo and Milagro and have become more independent because they seek to have their own money, instead of waiting for their husbands to give it to them” Luis Garcia
Mr. Luis Garcia was able to rehabilitate a quarter of his national cacao orchard in 2 years with the support of the MOCCA project and Olam Ecuador by introducing the improved clones EET-800 and 801.
“Thanks to the delivery of mechanized pruning tools, I continue to rehabilitate my orchard gradually. I am currently part of the team of grafters trained by the project and I provide grafting services to my neighboring farmers” Luis Garcia.
Creation of new labor opportunities
Training farmers in pruning and grafting practices with specialized tools is a viable alternative to accelerate the rehabilitation of unproductive cacao orchards. They also generate additional income by contracting grafting services.
“It facilitated buying necessary things for the household, such as appliances and a motorcycle” Luis Garcia
Promoting organic production
In the Farmer Field Schools (ECAs) farmers are learning environmentally friendly techniques that promote organic production, such as:
- Making wood vinegar as a biopesticide and establishing energy-generating forest (dendroenergy).
- Producing biofertilizers such as organic-mineral compost, vermicompost and mountain micro-organisms.
“I have fewer monilia problems and higher cacao yields by having the orchard well pruned. There are no aphids in my orchard because of the application of wood vinegar as a pest control” Luis Garcia
Improving cacao quality
Farmers of the San Alejo community received a community post-harvest kit (fermentation boxes and gas dryer) to improve grain quality at the time of marketing. As a result, Luis Garcia and 8 families have increased their income by up to 15%.
Improving quality of life
“Now I feel confident that I can make a living from cacao. The accompaniment of the project with its field technicians makes me feel confident that I am on the right track. All the technical knowledge I now have will allow me to move my farm and my family forward. I am confident that my daughter Linda will have the opportunity to study a university career and become a future agronomist”.Luis Garcia, cacao farmer.
Olam International is a leading agri-food company operating in 60 countries and supplying food and industrial raw materials to more than 19,800 customers worldwide. Olam is among the world’s largest suppliers of cacao beans and products, coffee, cotton and rice. Its partnership with MOCCA will help farmers in Ecuador develop their knowledge of good agricultural practices. It will foster markets that support farmers in achieving better prices through training in quality processing and in accessing the financing they need to renovate and rehabilitate their farms.