UK helps revitalize South Mexico cocoa farming while tackling deforestation
06 Mar 2023 --- The UK’s Partnering for Accelerated Climate Transitions (UK Pact) is providing training on agricultural best practices to 254 cacao farmers in the region of Tabasco, South Mexico to fight deforestation in the area caused by farmers switching to less carbon friendly crops and cattle ranching. The UK Pact will attempt to reverse the trend of declining yields per cocoa hectare.
A total of 140 workshops have taken place since 2021.
The UK Pact is also helping farmers generate more income by moving them to a model of selling fermented cacao beans. By processing the green beans they once sold for 20 pesos a kg (US$1.11), farmers can now make seven times more profit and sell their produce for 140 pesos a kg (US$7.74).
A study revealed last week that commonly used means of processing cocoa beans, such as fermentation and roasting, do not reduce the health benefits of chocolate.
Furthermore, more money will bring important social benefits to communities in the region, especially for women and elders, flag the UK authorities.
The UK Pact will attempt to reverse the trend of declining yields per cocoa hectare.
“Records show that on average, one hectare produced 0.8 metric tons of cacao in 1985, whereas it produced only 0.45 metric tons in 2020,” explains the organization.
Moreover, area harvested is also of concern. In 2021, there were six thousand fewer hectares of cacao harvests than in 2020 in this region.
“The worsening of cacao production in Tabasco is the result of several factors. On the one hand, higher temperatures due to climate change are causing infections such as moniliasis that could kill cacao plants,” says the UK Pact.
“It takes careful monitoring and laborious physical care for the cacao plants to heal after they are infected and this is difficult for some of the older farmers. On the other hand, the loss of ancestral knowledge about the management and care of the cacao plantations also contributes to poor harvests.”
Low production low investment
As yield per area and hectares harvested has declined over the years, farmers had less income to acquire equipment and make other investments such as in fertilizers, irrigation systems and pest control measures.
“Low incomes from cacao harvests have also led many communities to opt for other more profitable economic activities such as cattle ranching and corn farming. These activities are the main causes of deforestation in Tabasco and this is why it is important to promote the sustainable harvesting of cacao in this region,” explains the UK Pact.
Farmers have been taught a variety of topics to help them increase their production in an eco-friendly way. Such as improving their production processes and methods, pest control, organic fertilizer use, transforming cacao to different foods and upgrading their irrigation systems.
Farmers have also received financial education to improve their business skills, as well as guidance on applying for industry certifications to better market their products.
“Two years of capacity building have empowered these communities to take special care of the flora and fauna on their plantations, as they are necessary for a healthy cacao harvest. By using new agricultural practices, the farmers are increasing their production and adding more value to their harvests,” concludes the organization.
Companies boost farmers income
In the private sector, confectionery giants have been playing their part in creating a sustainable cocoa sector with fair prices for all and the elimination of unethical practices.
In 2022, chocolate behemoth Mars started two “farmer-first” programs that will support the sustainable living income of 14,000 smallholder farmers in Côte d’Ivoire and Indonesia. Helping farmers access, for example, the financial systems for the first time.
Meanwhile, on child labor risks, Nestlé offers farmers financial incentives to reduce harmful practices and help local women. The company is also focusing on working toward regenerative agriculture practices.
To make the cocoa business transparent, Koa is working on a blockchain-based technology that allows customers to monitor the extra income paid to farmers in real-time, with transactions being public, transparent and verifiable. Koa expects to reach over 12,000 farmers in the next two years and currently has over 2,200 in its value chain.
By Marc Cervera
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