A major challenge for Honduras to move nearly 50% of its population out of poverty, is to increase its competitiveness in key areas while diversifying into other markets where it can leverage competitive advantages. Established only in 2003, TechnoServe Honduras is helping rebuild, modernize, and increase profitability of key industries–e.g., dairy, vegetables, palm oil for cooking, specialty coffee, and fine cocoa–in order to generate jobs and incomes for the rural poor.  In addition TechnoServe runs entrepreneurship programs that empower men and women to create thriving businesses in key sectors. [This paragraph is from www.TechnoServe.org website.]

Grafting Ancient Indian Cocoa to Modern Plants

In May 2008 Rick and Wendy’s visit to five countries in two weeks for TechnoServe proved fascinating, exhausting AND

invaluable. The TechnoServe teams in Central and South America were wonderful, letting us observe the impact they are having on their clients in Peru, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

During their May 2008 visit, Rick and Wendy accompanied TechnoServe staff to Apache, Honduras to observe a cocoa plantation owned by a member of  the Cocoa Association of Farmers. Originally founded by a Spanish corporation, the association ran into trouble so turned to the Mennonite Social Action Committee.  Though Mennonites have basic farming knowledge, they needed the business, market and agricultural technical knowledge that TechnoServe could offer.  The project goal was to establish an agricultural value chain in fine cocoa (averaging US$20 per pound)  that is richer in taste and naturally sweet for dark, gourmet chocolate (no need to add sugar).  Starting with 100 hectares in the Chocoloma Basin, the project team built and managed nurseries to provide a supply of improved cocoa planting and grafting materials.  Specific project objectives included:

– Producing high quality berries and grafts by end of 3-year project;

– Growing mahogany forest to shade plants (agro-forest);

– Enabling two annual crops on shorter bushes (Oct./Nov. and Mar./Apr.);

– Grafting new fine and common cocoa to old and new plants to maintain and improve overall cocoa quality;

– Exporting Fine Cocoa directly into Italian and French gourmet chocolate market where pricing averaged US$20.00 per pound;

– And improving cocoa farmers’ quality of life.

TechnoServe initially helped to improve nursery and farm techniques–such as creating shade until natural mahogany could grow– for just regular cocoa plants in order to achieve better prices, learn how the market works, and understand the selling process.  Then TechnoServe started teaching both farmers and their children how to graft fine cocoa species onto the regular cocoa plants, using an old Indian orchard of cocoa as source for grafts. Farmers meanwhile could harvest the improved regular cocoa in nine months and receive US$4 per Kilo, an improvement over their prior pricing.  All of this knowledge would be applied to the long-term goal of successfully growing and selling fine cocoa.

For more success stories go to:  http://www.technoserve.org/our-work/where-we-work.