An ancient Chinese proverb says: “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” The Colombian cocoa farmer, Abraham Fernández, has shown this to be true, albeit on land and not at sea, after his cocoa plantation took away the Colombian 2017 Cacao de Oro (Golden Cocoa) award.
Abraham used to work as a stockbreeder, however, four years ago, he took the plunge and decided to become a cocoa farmer, a job in which he always aims to “obtain excellent quality”. The Colombian farmer, who has represented his country at the Salon du Chocolat in Paris held on October 28 to November 1, has no doubt that plantations “are a business, and that’s what many farmers don’t understand. They plant cocoa to have something in the ground, not to earn money.”
His secret is to pamper the product and stay well clear of chemical fertilizers, which gives the cob “a fruity flavor with hints of caramel. The beans are then well fermented in a special and very delicate,” explains Juan Carlos Amador, deputy director of operations of Socodevi and in charge of managing the Procompite project in the department of Meta.
Sowing the seeds of success
The project in which the farmer is involved has strengthened the production-related and business skills of over 3,000 families from all over Colombia. Abraham’s success story was made possible by a work team, which not only helped him to grow an excellent product, but also break into a market that transcends national borders.
For the farmer, the project is “magnificent and something that was really necessary in Colombia. People expect financial aid, but they don’t take advantage of the information provided. They need to know how to do things, what they’re doing wrong, and how to correct their mistakes,” said the farmer. In Abraham’s case, he learned the best way to treat the crop at a farmers field school, and he was helped by an expert who visited his farm.
An award to step onto the world stage
After receiving the award for the best cocoa in Colombia, Abraham’s product will go from being “sold in his village” to being exported all over the world. “What I achieved is a real honor and it will provide some great ideas and business opportunities” predicts Fernández.
Going back to the proverb, Abraham has learned how to fish and others have followed in his footsteps, which means that business activity has increased in his area. The association of which he is a member has seen its membership figures rise from just 27 to 181. In fact, if the producers of the other associations are added, this node is currently composed of 584 participants. In addition, the cocoa stockpile center has seen improvements, quality controls have been established, and a fund to help farmers grow their businesses has been created.
The association of which he is a member has seen its membership figures rise from just 27 to 181
Repsol is one of the financiers of this entity, which “is an open door, a great work opportunity which extends toward the social dimension.” It’s not about providing financial aid to a project, but building lifelong skills, explains Juan Amador, Procompite representative.
Sustainable development in Meta
Since March 2015, Repsol has been working with the Canadian Embassy and Socodevi on Procompite. The goal of this project is to increase the agricultural production of farmers by 30% by providing training on crops.
This has led to the development of a sustainable solution for the region of Meta. In fact, there are currently four production chains in the region in addition to the cocoa chain, namely, coffee, milk, watermelon and fish-farming. Procompite was chosen as one of three international cooperation projects that contribute the most to building peace in the country as it combines a number of concepts that include: good agricultural practices, management of natural resources, and valuation of carbon credit markets. Moreover, it empowers women involved in the production chains and promotes farming of alternative products rather than illicit crops, which in turn is a step further towards bringing the country’s armed conflict to an end.
In short, through this initiative Repsol has helped provide farmers and stockbreeders with the tools to independently start a business, who have then, in turn, showed how they work, their environment, and their community. It is a mutually beneficial relationship that could end up producing the world’s best cocoa.