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Media Contact: Emily Sollie, 410-230-2802, 443-220-3269 cell, esollie@lwr.org

Lutheran World Relief Expands Work with Cocoa Farmers in Central America

Baltimore, October 31, 2012 — Lutheran World Relief (LWR), through a $247,500 grant from the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES), is implementing “Pathways to Prosperity in the Cocoa Value Chain” in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras. LWR will directly implement the 18-month project, working with six cocoa producer organizations and three women's groups throughout the three countries. The Department of State's Pathways to Prosperity program links 15 Western Hemisphere countries committed to democracy and open markets in an initiative to promote inclusive growth, prosperity, and social justice. LWR was selected for this award through a competitive grants process under the category of Sustainable Business Practices and Environmental Cooperation. “LWR's work in the cocoa sector in Central America has been successful largely due to the organization's focus on sustainable agriculture practices and commitment to strengthening cooperatives.” explains Michael Watt, LWR's regional director for Latin America. “LWR is pleased that the U.S. State Department has provided us with funding to scale up our work and reach more farmers in Central America.”

This grant also builds on LWR's work to provide farmers with the technical resources and knowledge they need to succeed, including a recently published Cocoa Toolkit for farmers which LWR released last month in Managua, Nicaragua at the country's National Cocoa Forum. The Cocoa Toolkit includes approaches, techniques and information to help farmers in Central America improve their cocoa crops for higher yields and better quality.

The new project will support inclusive economic growth and natural resource conservation in Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador by increasing market access for smallholder farmers implementing sustainable agriculture practices. To reach this goal, the project aims to increase the capacities of cocoa producers’ and women's organizations to access markets for sustainably-produced cocoa, including support for engagement with the private sector, and these organizations’ capacity to produce high quality cocoa through agroforestry practices. According to Watt, “In the long run, this project will promote inclusive growth, prosperity and social justice by providing farmers and cooperatives with the information and tools they need to compete successfully in an international market, while also protecting resources critical to their livelihoods.” The project will directly benefit more than 800 smallholder farmers, and more than 5,000 people will benefit indirectly from earnings, trainings and access to markets and information.

Watt adds, “Cocoa in Central America is produced mostly by smallholder famers, and it has the potential to improve their livelihoods significantly. Cocoa is one of the few cash crop alternatives for families in poor areas.”

Cocoa requires few purchased inputs, can be grown on small plots of land with little hired labor, and allows producers to diversify production and income as part of an agroforestry system, intercropped with timber or other tree crops. Cocoa is also an important alternative to coffee, as a changing climate makes coffee production in areas of Central America less viable.

In addition to cooperatives and women's organizations, LWR has convened an alliance of private sector and strategic market-linked leverage partners to support the implementation of Pathways to Prosperity in the Cocoa Value Chain project. The alliance will include, among others, the Hershey Company, ECOM Atlantic, Root Capital and Biolatina. The Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center will also support the project by providing technical advice.

About Lutheran World Relief (LWR):
Lutheran World Relief works to improve the lives of smallholder farmers and people experiencing poverty in Africa, Asia and Latin America, both in times of emergencies and for the long term. With the financial support of US Lutherans and other donors, LWR strengthens communities through programs in agriculture, climate, and emergency support. LWR works with partners, supporters and technical assistance providers to achieve lasting results. For more information, visit lwr.org.

Lutheran World Relief is a ministry of U.S. Lutherans, serving communities living in poverty overseas.

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