Cocoa farming in Ecuador for a long time was characterized by low yields due to lack of knowledge on good agricultural practices. As a result, many families could not improve their living conditions. Fulgencio Murillo, a 75-year-old Ecuadorian farmer, who had spent 40 years dedicated to cocoa crop management, had the desire to renovate his old plantation. He needed more experience which was provided through technical advice from a Nestlé Cocoa Plan agronomist.
"I made the decision to seek help in the public and private sectors" Fulgencio recalls.
Field schools in action
"The essence of this initiative is that farmers strengthen their knowledge on good agricultural practices, exchange experiences and apply it in the management of their cocoa plantations" said Christian Saavedra, Head of the Agricultural Development Service of the Cocoa Business Unit of Nestlé Ecuador. "Our goal is to help farmers improve their economic, social and environmental conditions through field schools"
According to the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO), Ecuador is among the main producers of cocoa beans globally. The country occupies third place worldwide in terms of volume, representing 7% of total world production (Anecacao, 2019), with a planted area of 573,883 hectares (ESPAC, 2018) and the participation of 150,000 farmers who grow cocoa (MAG, 2018).
Christian has observed how many farmers who did not have technical assistance, such as Fulgencio, sadly chose to abandon their cocoa crops or replace them with other crops. In reality, not all farmers have the possibility of seeking expert advice and instead follow traditional practices and the results can be disappointing.
More committed Nestlé Cocoa Plan farmers
The Nestlé Cocoa Plan was launched in 2009 and now reaches 3,650 farmers in 10 provinces of Ecuador. In the farmer field schools, participants have benefited through training in planting, fertilization, pruning, pest and disease control, harvesting, post-harvest and social and environmental issues. The topics taught to farmers are validated by the Nestlé agronomist team and based on the needs of each community. Through field schools, agricultural supplies and tools have been donated to farmers, allowing them to improve the husbandry of their crops.
Fulgencio says that with this initiative he has improved the living conditions of his family. "Looking back and seeing how far we've come, fills us with pride". Says Fulgencio "I am very happy: I have applied all the knowledge in my cocoa cultivation"
Making a difference
With the training received through Nestlé field schools, 88% of the farmers have managed to certify their cocoa crops according to the UTZ cocoa standard, demonstrating sustainable agriculture practices.
"Helping cocoa communities to improve their knowledge and living conditions is a priority for Nestlé" said Diógenes Moreira, a strategic supplier of cocoa from Santa María sector, Manabí province.
In order to demonstrate the impact of the Nestlé Cocoa Plan, a regular impact assessment survey is carried out on a representative sample size of the farmers. According to the results obtained, the average yield of a Cocoa Plan farm is 847 kg/ha per year. "The farmers in my sector are happy because they have improved their farms' yield, thanks to the continuous support that the company has given us" said Diogenes.