Nurseries that Cultivate Prosperity

Publication date: 09-Jul-2020


The dreams of a farmer in Colombia are the same dreams any one of us might have. We want to use our skills to provide for our families, to give our children access to education, and to ensure that each member of the family has necessary food and medicine.

For Nelson Salas, a farmer in Colombia, his dreams include planting, harvesting, and getting his product to market. That steady income puts more than just food on the table. He wants to see his children graduate from school and earn enough from the farm to stay, rather than abandon their rural town like others have done in search of opportunities in the city.

However, famers around the world find it difficult to make a living. A humble hero steps in to help: cocoa.

Why cocoa?

For many Colombian farmers, cocoa production is an ideal option. The climate in much of Colombia is ideal for cocoa. And while producing high-quality cocoa is not easy, the skills can be learned.

The fact that cocoa production is ideal for Colombia shouldn’t come as a surprise – cocoa was discovered in the Amazon Basin, and cocoa production has a long history in Colombia. However, in 2019 cocoa production in Colombia stood at almost 60,000 tons. That’s around 1 percent of the world’s cocoa production, so Colombia has room to grow.(1)

Challenges to sustainable cocoa production

Cocoa producers face a long list of challenges in their struggle to make a living. In Colombia, where cocoa farmers generally have small farms, one challenge is aged plants. Cocoa farmers need to replace older plants with newer, more productive plants.

Better plants and improved production benefit local farmers. However, farmers with limited resources often can’t afford to replace aged plants. Other farmers want to start producing cocoa, but the initial investment is out of their reach. (2)

Cocoa Nurseries for Peace 

The Compañía Nacional de Chocolates has been working with Colombian cocoa producers since 1920, and that long history gives valuable insight into the challenges facing cocoa farmers.

That insight led the Compañía Nacional de Chocolates to support cocoa farmers and the future of cocoa production in Colombia through a program launched in 2018. Cocoa Nurseries for Peace (Viveros de Cacao para la Paz) is designed to give cocoa growers the tools they need to succeed at cocoa production. (3)

How a nursery contributes to sustainability

To fill the dire need for new plants, the program provides Fine Flavor Cocoa plants to farmers in seven regions. The nurseries, based in the Cesar and Meta departments of Colombia, help people who are as diverse as Colombia. Indigenous and African-Colombians and displaced families have all benefitted.

Farmers now have access to high-performing cocoa plants that will improve both productivity on their farms and the quality of the final product.

The Cesar nursery, with an area of 20,000 m2, has the capacity to produce 1.2 million cocoa plants every year. Working with co-ops, the nursery has distribuited  623.531 plants helped 1,042 familiesin the Caribbean area.

To benefit the Eastern Plains region, the nursery in Meta has 18,000 m2 and the capacity to produce 660,000 plants annually. They have distributed 202,894 plants to 617 families.

Nelson Salas, mentioned above, is part of the program in Cesar. In 2019 he received over 4,000 plants. However, great plants aren’t enough. Farmers also have to understand how to manage the challenges they face as cocoa growers. That’s where an effective training program comes in.

Training for success

Nelson received more than plants. He also received training to develop his skills and support his efforts. All participants in the Cocoa Nurseries for Peace receive the Inclusive Production Project manual that provides financial, economic and technical orientation. (4) In 2019, 32 training sessions were held covering crop management, grafting, integrated management of pests and diseases, pruning, and phytosanitary management.

Without the support that programs such as the Cocoa Nurseries for Peace give to small-scale farmers, many families in rural areas will continue in the poverty that has swallowed up rural areas for decades.

As Nelson states, “The Cocoa Nurseries for Peace program has helped us achieve our life goals, especially since the company [Compañía Nacional de Chocolates] is committed to buying all the cocoa we produce at a fair price.”

A step closer to prosperity, one cocoa plant at a time.
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