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A Cool Glass of Water
By Annalise Romoser and Nikki Massie
Rubén Darío Torres now considers himself a successful farmer. But as he explains, it wasn’t always that way.
“Before, I planted all over and didn’t have my crops organized. Even though I had enough land to plant basic grains, it was hard to earn enough money for the family,” he explains.
He lives in the community of Vista El Castillo, in Nicaragua, with his wife and three children. To help make ends meet, Rubén’s wife sold tortillas and bananas and he worked day and night on his farm, often with little food to sustain him.
But all that changed when Lutheran World Relief and a consortium of partners brought the Alliance to Create Rural Business Opportunities through Agro-Enterprise Relationships (ACORDAR) project to his community. Rubén says the opportunity was like “a cool glass of water” in the form of agricultural support to grow cocoa, a potentially lucrative crop.
As part of the ACORDAR project, Rubén not only began growing cocoa, he also learned how to establish a greenhouse, prepare his land for planting, control pests, use organic fertilizer and process his cocoa so that he can earn more money from it. He received enough cocoa seeds to plant on a few acres of his land, along with the appropriate tools to tend his crops.
Rubén now belongs to a cocoa producers’ cooperative that is participating in the ACORDAR project. ACORDAR works with cooperatives to make sure they have proper processing equipment like solar driers, wood stoves, scales, thermometers and wheelbarrows to aid the fermentation and drying process of the cocoa beans.
Thanks to these and other measures, cocoa farmers in this project are now producing first-class cocoa for the export market and farmers like Rubén are earning more money and are better supporting their families.
Over the life of this project, participating cocoa farmers have achieved more than $600,000 in cocoa sales. Since the start of the project in 2007, all participating cooperatives have been certified to sell their crops through the conventional and organic Fair Trade markets, unlocking enormous earning potential for farmers.
Through this process Rubén has also made some significant personal advancements. “Before I was a student and now I am a master teacher of cocoa, organic fertilizers, weed and pest control,” he says. Along with growing his own cocoa, he helps fellow cooperative members improve their crops.
The introduction to growing cocoa and the resulting changes to his way of farming have had a positive impact in many aspects of Rubén’s life.
“I have improved my diet; my whole family is better off and cocoa is an environmentally friendly crop. My financial situation has changed a lot, because before I didn’t have resources and I had to work night and day to get ahead. [Now] financially I have succeeded.”
Annalise Romoser is LWR’s Field Communications Officer for Latin America. Nikki Massie is LWR’s Staff Writer.
ACORDAR is a joint project supported by Lutheran World Relief, Catholic Relief Services and USAID.
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%