Most of us love to eat chocolate, but may know little about the people who grow and make it.
Latin American cocoa farmers have been hit particularly hard this year. They’ve faced disruptions in planting, harvesting, storing, marketing, and distributing their cocoa due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They also lost crops and infrastructure in November when hurricanes Eta and Iota hit Central America in quick succession. As small chocolate business owners, farmers, packers, and shippers look to restart their livelihoods, they’ll need strong networks.
That’s why the IAF is partnering with the Fine Chocolate Industry Association (FCIA), a non-profit trade association, to provide technical education and marketing opportunities to small-scale cocoa farmers in Latin America and the Caribbean. Together we’ll engage vulnerable farmers and fund their ideas for addressing challenges in the cocoa industry like protecting labor rights and stewarding the environment. The IAF and FCIA will also activate our networking, capacity building, and peer-to-peer learning efforts to support cocoa producers in Latin America and Caribbean.
How did this partnership come together? Read on to find out more…
A commitment to providing cocoa growers with a path to a sustainable livelihood and promoting greater farmer knowledge and involvement along the chocolate value chain underpins the IAF and FCIA’s new partnership.
“We are excited to partner with an association like FCIA, which has done so much to support ethical and sustainable practices in fine chocolate production,” explained Marcia Cota, IAF Senior Advisor for Strategic Partnerships. “Their more than 300 members represent leading fine chocolate makers and buyers from the United States and beyond—some of the very markets IAF grantee partners want to reach.” The IAF and FCIA partnership also represents a strong geographic and programmatic fit.
FCIA’s members represent successful cocoa-buying companies that want to invest in small producers’ growth and source 80% of their cocoa from Latin America. In 2020, the IAF invested close to $4 million in sustainable cocoa production in the region, matched by $6.7 million mobilized by its grantee partners. The IAF directly funds dozens of cocoa farmer groups ranging in scale from small producers’ associations to a Peruvian network that represents 300,000 cocoa farmers from 26 producer associations.
With IAF support, cocoa farmers boost their productivity using sustainable agroforestry techniques, planting cacao trees among other trees to reduce erosion and the spread of crop diseases. They also develop value-added products and strengthen links with consumers. Finally, they have opportunities to network with other IAF grantee partners and exchange best practices for meeting export certification requirements.
Like the IAF, FCIA is committed to conserving biological diversity by empowering farming communities that grow heirloom varieties, including those represented by IAF grantees. FCIA’s expertise centers on market research, business linkages, and cocoa and chocolate educational programs. FCIA seeks to ensure that farmers earn premiums for improved cocoa quality and consistency. Bill Guyton, FCIA Executive Director, notes that “FCIA and our members are strategically aligned with IAF and we see a great opportunity to share best practices and jointly support farming communities. IAF has a strong track record of working in Latin America and the Caribbean and we are honored to partner with them.”
Our Projected Impact
By combining our expertise and networks, the IAF and FCIA can ensure that:
- IAF cocoa grantees get access to FCIA’s educational resources on sustainable cocoa production, ingredients and techniques for producing fine chocolates, and how to break into new cocoa markets.
- Grassroots organizations of cocoa farmers can explore potential connections with buyers through local, regional, and international cocoa and chocolate producer networks.
- Farmers can advocate directly with cocoa buyers for their priorities to improve the quality of life for their families and communities.
- IAF and FCIA partners can exchange good practices in sustainable cocoa production, value-added processing and marketing, and innovations in the cocoa sector at national and regional gatherings.
Cocoa farming communities are reeling right now, like so many others. But the same good practices that have been helping producers establish themselves for years will help them rebuild: drawing from effective sustainable techniques to produce a quality product, and continuously learning, growing, and networking.