Luis Olmedo Garcia Gómez harvests cacao in San Alejo, Ecuador. (Photo credit: ofi Ecuador)

Transforming the cocoa sector through private sector partnerships

Lutheran World Relief leads cacao programming for the six-country USDA-funded Maximizing Opportunities in Coffee and Cacao in the Americas (MOCCA) project, helping farmers to overcome barriers to effectively rehabilitate and renovate (R&R) their cacao plants while increasing their productivity and income.

MOCCA uses a market systems approach to promote cacao production that focuses on increasing crops yields through agroforestry systems, improving cacao quality, enhancing the professional capacity of both farmers and producer organizations, and facilitating linkages between buyers and sellers. The project has awarded more than $500K to support partnerships with private sector entities through its Matching Grant Program.

Maximizing opportunities in cacao

Through MOCCA in Ecuador, Lutheran World Relief and ofi Ecuador joined forces to offer a matching grant that benefits 650 small scale producers in the provinces of Guayas, Los Ríos, and Esmeraldas.

65-year-old cacao farmer Luis Olmedo Garcia Gómez and his family directly benefit from this private sector partnership. His family has been dedicated to cacao cultivation for three decades in the San Alejo community of Guayas.

Before MOCCA, Garcia lacked knowledge about pruning and fertilization practices, and he struggled to afford specialized tools or additional laborers. Now, in just two years of Matching Grant Program support, Garcia has already been able to rehabilitate a quarter of his cacao plots.

MOCCA accompanies cacao farmers in improving pruning and grafting practices, supplying specialized tools to accelerate the rehabilitation of unproductive cacao plots. Many of these farmers, like Garcia, are also able to generate additional income when they are contracted for their grafting services.

“Thanks to the delivery of mechanized pruning tools, I continue to rehabilitate my farm gradually. I am currently part of the team of grafters trained by the project, and I provide grafting services to my farmer neighbors,” Garcia says.

A pile of yellow, red and green cacao pods lay on a dark brown ground

Cacao pods in San Alejo, Ecuador. (Photo credit: ofi Ecuador)

Promoting sustainable production

In Escuelas de Campo para Agricultores (Farmer Field Schools), farmers are learning environmentally friendly techniques that promote organic production like biopesticides and biofertilizers. Garcia now implements innovative models of regenerative agriculture by developing dynamic agroforestry systems on his land. Not only is his cacao yield growing, but he is also cultivating other plant species that support carbon sequestration as well as provide additional food and income for his family. 

In the San Alejo community, farmers are now using new fermentation crates and drying equipment to support post-harvest cacao management. With improved cacao quality and yield, community outcomes are transforming. Garcia and eight other families have increased their income as much as 15% through MOCCA’s support.

Garcia is looking to the future:

Now I have peace of mind that I can live sustainably on cacao. The project accompaniment through its field technicians makes me feel sure that I am on the right track. All the technical knowledge that I have now will allow me to move my farm and my family forward. I am confident that my daughter Linda will have the opportunity to study at the university and be a future agronomist engineer.


La versión en español de este blog puede encontrarse aquí.

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