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President of Cooperativa de Desarrollo Productiva del San Juan receiving first prize at the chocolate competition.

President of Cooperativa de Desarrollo Productiva del San Juan receiving first prize at the chocolate competition.

Sweet Victory

By Annalise Romoser

For Cooperativa de Desarrollo Productiva del San Juan, a cocoa-growers cooperative from Nicaragua, winning an internationally-judged cocoa competition is a pretty big deal in and of itself. But considering the hurdles cocoa farmers in Nicaragua have overcome to successfully grow and sell cocoa, the win was also validation — of hard work and the power of sustainable development.

The cooperative is one of six cocoa cooperatives LWR has been co-supporting with Catholic Relief Services through a grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development. The project, called ACORDAR,1 is helping both cocoa and coffee farmers increase their yields, improve the quality of their beans and sell them at a better price.

Nicaragua once produced a lot of cocoa for the chocolate market, and it was pretty good cocoa. But in recent decades the industry in Nicaragua faltered, forcing many farmers to either abandon their cocoa crops or pay less attention to them in favor of more profitable crops. As a result, the quality of their cocoa beans suffered, garnering a lower price.

Through the ACORDAR project, cocoa farmers have received training in better growing and processing methods and access to expert technical assistance. The results of this project so far have been impressive. Farmers have seen their cocoa sales reach more than half a million dollars since the project began, and more jobs have been created in the cocoa sector. The project has also helped increase the amount of cocoa and coffee land managed under sustainable practices by nearly 4,000 acres.

The project has even caught the attention of The Hershey Company, who has been working with farmers to improve the fermenting and drying of their cocoa beans, which improves their quality and value. The hard work is obviously paying off — farmers are growing award-winning cocoa!

With support from LWR, cocoa farmers have received training in better growing and processing methods.

With support from LWR, cocoa farmers have received training in better growing and processing methods.

The recent chocolate competition brought together cooperatives representing hundreds of cocoa farmers from Nicaragua. An international panel of judges tasted each cooperatives cocoa and chose a winner. The panel was made up of experts in the international chocolate market, including the founder of Seventy Percent, a chocolate resource and educational website, the president of the cacao forum of Ecuador, and a representative from German chocolate company Ritter Sport.

Just as significant as the award, which will bring notoriety to the cooperative and to the Nicaraguan cocoa industry, is the fact that farmers are now growing better cocoa that sells for a better price that enables farmers to better support their families.

Your contributions to LWR helped make this project and this victory possible. And that is pretty sweet.

Annalise Romoser is LWR’s Field Communications Officer for Latin America.

1Alliance to Create Opportunities for Rural Development through Agro-Enterprise Relationships

Total Program Cost: $4,608,711
Amount USAID funded under this agreement: $2,599,656
% of total funded under this agreement by USAID: 56.4%
Amount funded by non-governmental funds: $2,009,055
% of total funded by non-governmental funds: 43.6%

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