Professionalising smallholder coffee and cocoa production in Nicaragua
The Encantos de Guadalupe farm in La Suana community in Nicaragua is owned by the González López family. They have been growing and producing coffee on their farm for over thirty years, and have experienced low income due to fluctuating coffee prices and the family's dependency on coffee for their income.
The SNV "Access to Sustainable Markets and Food Security" (PROMESSA-CAFCA) project aims to professionalise and commercialise the farming practices of 5,000 smallholder coffee and cocoa farmers in Nicaragua, leading to higher and more secure incomes.
Socrates González López and his son have diversified the coffee varieties they grow on their farm, shifting from Caturra to variaties such as Catimor and Marsellesa, or to Jaba, that are more resistant to rust leaf disease and more resilient to changes in the climate. These coffee varieties also are valued more in the high value specialty coffee markets.
The González López family also has been able to improve its production methods. Socrates and his son purchased a wet coffee processing mill. Before, the family used to mill their harvests in a more traditional manner by spreading the coffee beans out on a plastic sheet and using poles to remove the skin from the coffee beans. This improved wet milling process uses 50% less water and creates 80% less wastewater than the traditional method. Socrates used credit that he was able to access due to the family's participation in the project to purchase the mill. “The project gave us financing for the mill and the CAFENICA cooperative representative trained me to operate it efficiently ” Socrates adds.
In addition to working with farmers directly, SNV and partners also train representatives from companies and producer cooperatives, i.e. service providers, to improve the quality of technical assistance available to smallholder farmers and to keep them up to date with the latest developments in the coffee and cocoa sectors.
Due to the adoption of improved agricultural practices, harvests for participating smallholder farmers increased by 35% for coffee and 207% for cocoa, while the quality of the beans for both commodities increased. Coffee sales have expanded by 23% due to improved market opportunities; the strengthening of commercialisation capacities and the marketing strategy that was implemented by the coffee and cocoa cooperative. The strategy focused on establishing long-term commercial relations between the farmers, cooperatives, exporters and linking them to high value markets.
Overall, to date, 5,000 smallholder coffee and cocoa farmers in the project in the Estelí, Madriz, Nueva Segovia, Matagalpa, Jinotega and Río San Juan provinces who participated in the project have seen their incomes increase by 74%.
The PROMESSA-CAFCA project started in 2013 and will to continue until 2018. The project is implemented by SNV together with Exportadora Atlantic – Grupo ECOM, the Nicaragua Agricultural Technology and Forestry Development Foundation (FUNICA), the Zamorano Pan American School of Agriculture and the UTZ Certified Foundation. The project value is €10 million and is funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Relations and the ECOM Group.