Cocoa beans from the Criollo tree, native to Nicaragua, are prized by gourmet chocolate makers for their exceptional aroma, flavor and quality. Fine cocoa typically commands a price anywhere from two to five times higher than conventional cocoa. Yet Nicaragua exports fewer than 1,000 tons of cocoa a year, almost none of it fine cocoa.
In 2006, TechnoServe began assisting 80 small-scale farmers to capitalize on the business opportunity presented by Criollo cocoa. These farmers have planted about 100,000 native cocoa trees and resumed production on cocoa trees that had been abandoned. Chocolate makers such as Domori and Ritter Sport have already expressed interest in the high-quality cocoa.
By 2013, TechnoServe expects farmers in the program to export about 70 tons, or $200,000 worth of cocoa. The long-term vision is to help as many as 25,000 farmers participate in the industry. And by planting or preserving more than 300 acres of trees, the program is helping to preserve Nicaragua’s rich biodiversity.
Two years ago, farmers of jocote, a fruit native to Central America, were struggling with high post-harvest losses and low prices set by middlemen. The situation was so bleak that several of the jocoteros considered selling the farms they had owned for decades. But with TechnoServe’s assistance, the farmers learned to grow and harvest their crops more efficiently and thus produce more saleable jocote. TechnoServe also connected the farmers directly to a Salvadoran food processing company that exports to the U.S. market.
Now, making nearly $45,000 in annual incremental revenue from their combined 124 acres, TechnoServe’s clients are able to employ nearly 2,000 seasonal workers. Equally important, they are setting a good example for other nearby growers.
These farmers are part of a TechnoServe program to boost exports of traditional ethnic products from El Salvador to the United States. The growing number of Salvadoran migrants has fueled a strong U.S. market for products such as baked goods, dairy products and fruits like jocote. TechnoServe is providing guidance and training so that would-be exporters can access this growing market.
The fruit of the oil palm, a tropical palm tree, is a key agricultural product in Honduras. However, many small-scale producers of the crop lack the equipment and organizational capacity necessary for their business to thrive.
In 2007, TechnoServe began working with APROVA, a cooperative of 154 farming families who were earning little for the palm oil they produced. With TechnoServe’s assistance, the producers developed a clear business plan and implemented accounting, auditing and quality-control systems. They adopted democratic decision-making by the board and general assembly.
By 2008, TechnoServe’s assistance had contributed to a doubling of farmer profits and enabled the cooperative to create an education fund to ensure future growth and sustainability. APROVA opened its first oil processing plant in April 2009, thanks to funding from the USDA. With a plant capacity of 5.5 tons per day, farmers now process and refine their own palm oil, increasing their profits.
With support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, TechnoServe is undertaking a major initiative to help small-scale coffee farmers in East Africa double their incomes. TechnoServe business advisors focus their efforts in four areas: agronomy and training to provide farmers with practical knowledge that will increase yields; installation of wet mills to produce washed coffee; training in business management and finances; and the establishment of market linkages between growers, exporters and roasters.
In 2010, the IFC announced the opening of a loan guarantee facility in Ethiopia to support TechnoServe’s Coffee Initiative. The guarantee will allow Ethiopia’s Nib International Bank S.C. to provide up to $30 million in loans to coffee farmer cooperatives by the year 2013, ultimately benefitting thousands of farmers. The loans will provide much-needed capital for investment in new equipment and are expected to increase farmer income by as much as 30 percent.
In the wake of Haiti’s catastrophic earthquake, TechnoServe is partnering with The Coca-Cola Company on the Haiti Hope Project, whose objective is to create a sustainable Haitian mango industry and play a role in the nation’s long-term recovery efforts. TechnoServe will help Haitian mango farmers grow their crops more efficiently, produce additional crops to boost their incomes and create businesses allowing them to access markets sustainably.
A variety of donors including The Coca-Cola Company, the Inter-American Development Bank, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund have come together to make this five-year project possible. Haiti Hope seeks to double the income of 250,000 Haitian mango farmers while contributing to Haiti’s long-term development and revitalization. The project will also improve the participation of women in fruit production and develop opportunities for entrepreneurs to establish value-adding businesses in the Haitian mango sector.
Sub-Saharan Africa contributes less than one percent of the world’s soy, but the crop has the potential to become a key source of income for the region’s farmers. In the next 10 years, TechnoServe hopes to significantly increase the incomes of 200,000 households in southern Africa through the development of a competitive local soy industry.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has provided a grant that will support TechnoServe’s efforts in Zambia and Mozambique. The soy program will build on TechnoServe’s proven model for increasing farmer incomes by promoting improvements across an industry’s entire supply chain. TechnoServe, in partnership with a range of businesses, nonprofits and public-sector organizations, will help farmers purchase premium seeds and other supplies, learn vital techniques for growing soy, and form farmer business organizations. At the same time, TechnoServe will promote investments in soy storage and processing as it works to develop the local feed and livestock industries, ensuring that the smallholder farmers will have a stable market for their crops.