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.

From Nicaragua to Denmark: Chocolate Don Alfonso

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.

Collage of three images of Alfonso Tapia holding chocolate made with cocoa he produced, standing in a cocoa plantation and working in the greenhouse where cocoa is drying

Snapshots of Alfonso Tapia, president of the San Juan Cooperative of Productive Multisectoral Development (Cooperativa de Desarrollo Multisectorial Productivo del San Juan or COODEPROSA).

When Alfonso Tapia started producing cacao a few years ago, he never imagined that today, European-made chocolate would bear his name.

"Don Alfonso" as he is known to his friends, is president of the San Juan Cooperative of Productive Multisectoral Development (Cooperativa de Desarrollo Multisectorial Productivo del San Juan or COODEPROSA), an organization that supports cacao producers in the municipality of El Castillo, Río San Juan, Nicaragua.

In El Castillo, agriculture is the principal economic activity, with their cacao cultivation emerging as an international example of quality, fineness and aroma.

Before we had contact with MOCCA, we lacked knowledge of proper management for cacao cultivation, like the establishment of plantations, pest control, harvesting, post-harvest and traceability. It was very difficult to market our cacao and when we tried to sell it locally, nobody was buying it. We were discouraged. 

In 2019, through Lutheran World Relief, COODEPROSA joined the MOCCA project to participate in training programs that support cacao producers in the area to improve their profitability and productivity, strengthening their knowledge of good agricultural practices, improving the quality of their beans and connecting producers with buyers of fine, aromatic cacao.

For Don Alfonso, one of his most important achievements is that the company Mikkel Friis-Holm Ottosen, located in Denmark, recently launched a line of chocolate called "Chocolate Don Alfonso," manufactured with cacao from his farm.

Chocolate bars with cocoa from Don Alfonso's farm are manufactured

This success combined with awards obtained in national competitions for cacao excellence has increased international recognition for the cacao produced in El Castillo. Now, additional European chocolate companies are interested in buying cacao from El Castillo.

We have improved the quality of our beans by using fermentation protocols and good practices that have also reduced processing and post-harvest costs.

The results of implementing improved agricultural practices are reflected in the price and demand for cacao produced by COODEPROSA, now internationally known for the high quality of its beans.

I always share what I learn with other producers. I have tripled my cacao production and hope to grow it by a further 40 percent next year. Now I have more income and that allows my family to have access to a better quality of life. My goal is to continue growing with the cooperative to support other producers, create jobs and promote development in my community.