Bag of cacao

The MOCCA (Maximizing Coffee and Cocoa Opportunities in the Americas) project, funded by the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food for Progress Program, is being implemented in Ecuador, Peru, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua. LWR is leading the cocoa activities in the project.

Helping fellow growers have a better harvest

Lutheran World Relief, along with principal partner TechnoServe, are implementing the Maximizing Opportunities in Coffee and Cacao in the Americas (MOCCA) project, a 5-year, $36.4 million initiative funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. MOCCA builds the key agricultural sectors of coffee and cocoa in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Peru. MOCCA supports farmers to overcome the barriers that limit their capacity to effectively rehabilitate and renovate their coffee and cacao plants – increasing their productivity, while improving their marketing capacity, incomes, and livelihoods within these key value chains. Lutheran World Relief is leading cocoa value-chain activities for MOCCA.

This blog was originally posted on the MOCCA blog.

Gerber Manuel Caal, a cocoa producer stands in his cocoa plot

“I like to share the knowledge that I have learned with other cacao producers” - Gerber Manuel Caal

Gerber Manuel Caal is a 30-year-old cocoa producer.

Originally from Lanquín, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala, he grew up playing and learning among cacao plantations. For many years, his family's economic livelihood has been based on cacao cultivation.

However, although Caal and his family worked hard to take care of their plantation, a lack of knowledge in agricultural best practices was an obstacle to achieving desired production levels. This was further reflected in poor sales that did not allow Gerber to advance and support his wife and two daughters.

Before joining the MOCCA project I worked on my cacao plot in a simple way and I didn't know much about good agricultural practices and agroforestry systems.

Aware of this situation, Caal decided to take charge of his family's future by joining trainings offered by the MOCCA project to learn about proper cacao crop management with the goal of increasing productivity and profitability.

Through Lutheran World Relief and the MOCCA project in Guatemala, Caal participated in the professional cacao diploma course "Renovation - Rehabilitation, Agroforestry, Quality and Climate Change in Cacao" offered by the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza or CATIE) and Universidad Rafael Landívar.

Students gather together wearing masks behind a tarp covered with cocoa beans

Participants in the diploma course "Renovation - Rehabilitation, Agroforestry, Quality and Climate Change in Cacao" offered by CATIE as part of the MOCCA project in Guatemala.

The curriculum of the diploma course also included practical content on agroforestry diagnostics, pest and disease identification, and fermentation, drying, and processing methods to train participants in how to improve the quality of their production and the volume of their yields.

Caal has continued to participate in the MOCCA project and now works as a community trainer for the Maya Chivite Development Association (Asociación de Desarrollo Maya Chivite or ADEMAYACH) sharing his new knowledge.

Currently, he trains 25 cacao producers in his community and hopes to double this number in the coming weeks. 

I like to teach others the good cultivation practices that I learned through MOCCA, to help my fellow growers have a better harvest and increase their income, just as I have done in my own planting.

Thanks to the knowledge acquired, Caal and his family have been able to increase the productivity of their farm and have access to a better lifestyle.

We know that Gerber Caal will continue to be an indispensable part of the development of the MOCCA project in Guatemala. The efforts of community trainers like him will expand beyond his community in Lanquín, reaching 20,000 cacao and 60,000 coffee farmers, not only in his native Guatemala, but also in Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Peru and Ecuador.