In 2017, the Nestlé Cocoa Plan (NCP) set up agricultural field schools for cocoa farmers across Ecuador, providing training on the importance of pruning and grafting. Through training, cocoa farmers learn best practices and techniques to overcome farming challenges, such as tree-aging and low crop productivity, as well as receive intensive training on pruning and grafting methods. In the three years since the initiative’s launch, the key benefit to cocoa farmers has become clear: pruned cocoa trees produce more yield, thus increases farmers’ income.
To date, more than 700 cocoa farmers have graduated from the Nestlé Cocoa Plan’s pruning and grafting program, with 29% being under the age of 30. A survey sample of 100 farmers who received training in 2017 and 2018 showed that 40% have gone onto provide pruning and grafting services, generating additional income for their households.
The spread of information from trained cocoa farmers has led to an uptick of pruning and grafting practices among fellow farmers. The training provided not only allows farmers to improve their cocoa yield, but also is meant to generate sources of work for farmers in rural areas – allowing them to apply their pruning and grafting knowledge across cocoa farms in: Quevedo, Vinces, El Empalme, Naranjito, La Troncal, Chone, San Jacinto del Búa, Caluma, Santa María and Milagro.
The Nestlé Cocoa Plan’s pruning and grafting initiative typically caters to farmers with small and medium sized cocoa farms (avg. size: five hectares). Farmers receive a total of 60 hours of training split between theory and practice classes. Wilson Matamoros is a 24-year-old cocoa farmer from Mocache, in the Los Ríos province. He was one of many students that enrolled in Nestlé Cocoa Plan’s pruning and grafting school in 2018. He lives with his parents and sister on their 15-hectare farm, where they produce cocoa and other crops. Once Wilson graduated from the program, he began generating additional income for his family.
After a good year of work, Wilson aspires to become the leader of a group of cocoa pruners in his region and wants to offer his services to a larger group of cocoa farmers. Regarding his experience, he says, “I am very grateful to Nestlé because, thanks to them, I was able to specialize in cocoa pruning. Now I can provide this service to my community. I have increased cocoa yield and I hope to continue improving and innovating my farm. Thank you for taking into account small to medium sized farmers like me. I hope they continue offering these trainings, so that we can put knowledge into practice on our farms.”