Returning to Traditional Cacao Production in Colombia

Returning to Traditional Cacao Production in Colombia

Communities in the Colombia-Chocó program are turning from growing coca to raising native cacao (pronounced ca-COW) trees, whose fruit is processed into cocoa powder and chocolate. They traditionally lived off agriculture and fishing, but because of the economic isolation and lack of alternative employment in the region, many in this vulnerable population began illegally planting coca for the production of coca paste, to be made into cocaine. This was a highly lucrative but extremely dangerous activity. Colombian armed forces then began forcible fumigations to kill coca plants, once again plunging people into unemployment and risk.The program is now adding the cultivation of cacao to rice production as a way for the communities to produce their own food, earn income, and improve their quality of life.

Participants have constructed one large nursery for the benefit of 6 communities. They've developed the substrate for filling the nursery bags with organic material, sand, and mulch at a ratio of 2:1:1, planted 52,000 cacao seedlings since March of 2012, and carried out periodic fumigation of the nursery to control fungus infestation in the highly humid environment. Seedlings will be distributed once they have grown enough for grafting with high-production varieties whose root stock is disease-resistant. Because the cacao tree begins to bear when it is four or five years old and people cannot depend on a single crop for food security, farmers are also encouraged to engage in other agricultural and small animal husbandry activities.

In the meantime, trainings will focus on clearing and improving the land parcels, and providing shade for the cacao trees. Farmers will learn related management, harvesting, drying, and marketing of their cacao. They are in the process of forming agro-cooperatives to permit joint selling of the crop and gain a better price through production of organic cacao.

The Colombia-Chocó program encompasses 11 communities, 200 households, and 1000 individuals

02/18/2013 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment