Cocoa in Waslala, Nicaragua - PROJECT ENDED

Cocoa in Waslala, Nicaragua - PROJECT ENDED

Sustainable cocoa production to reforest the region of Waslala

The big chocolate companies (Nestlé, Mars and Barry-Callebaut) are warning of a future 1 billion kg shortfall in cocoa by 2020, caused by rising demand for chocolate in new markets such as India and China and reduced crop production due to climate change. There is a global need to create a more sustainable model of cocoa production that will boost productivity so that future demand can be met. Small-scale farmers, who are responsible for 90% of global production, are therefore key to this revolution.

Cocoa production in Nicaragua is growing, but it is still a secondary commodity. CACAONICA is a farmers’ organisation situated in Waslala in the centre of Nicaragua. The cooperative was founded in 2002 and has 280 active members. They are spread throughout 40 communities, within a rough radius of 60 kilometres of the city. Its main business partner is Ritter Sport, a German company which is the biggest exporter of Nicaraguan cocoa.

Besides cocoa, the farmers grow coffee and wheat, and some also breed livestock. They live in isolated areas without public transport so they carry their goods by mule or on foot. In most cases their houses lack electricity and other basic services. A micro-dam in the Rio Bravo should facilitate their access to energy, but the area around it has been intensively deforested with the consequent loss of water and biodiversity. The farmers see the cocoa trees as an opportunity to reforest the region and, at the same time, generate extra revenue.


  • 20% of the farmers experience food shortages at the end of the dry season.
  • Productivity and quality are quite low due to ageing plantations and poor post-harvest techniques.
  • The cocoa is transported in sacks over long distances, which affects the quality of the end product. Better containers and closer warehouses would improve the situation.
  • The post-harvest drying process relies mainly on wood ovens, which are expensive and polluting.
  • The organisation’s main weaknesses are its lack of visibility and weak management structure.
  • The cooperative depends on one main buyer. Diversification would help to stabilize prices.
  • Young people in the community lack educational opportunities to acquire the technical knowledge that would benefit the cooperative in the long term.
  • The basins near the Rio Bravo, where the farms are situated, suffer from deforestation which endangers the water reserves and the environment of the region.

Our Strategies

  • To reduce food insecurity, we promote the creation of family gardens.
  • To increase productivity, VECO promotes Good Agricultural Practices through Farmer Field schools (“Escuelas de Campo”).
  • To increase quality, we help the farmers to obtain UTZ certificates through the creation of Internal Control Systems.
  • To reduce the transport distance and increase storage capacity, three small regional storehouses will be created.
  • We are conducting a study to transform the current wood-drying method into a more environmentally-friendly and cheaper hybrid one.
  • We promote scholarships for young people in the region through the Technical Institute of Waslala.
  • To strengthen the cooperative, we promote leadership and management courses.
  • We help CACAONICA to attract more clients, through promotional activities in international fairs and its participation in the National Cocoa Round Table and other forums.
  • We work to strengthen the relationship between the cooperative and their main client Ritter Sport.
  • To fight deforestation, we promote the expansion of cocoa tree plantations according to an agroforestry approach.

Achieved results

  • Bi-monthly meetings are held with Ritter Sport with a special focus on inclusivity.
  • A new trade chain has been established with French Company Ethiquable
  • 20 family gardens have been created.
  • All of the cocoa farmers’ organisations in Central America (including CACAONICA) are now united in a new association called AMACACAO to defend their interests.

What do we expect in the long-term?

  • Working with young people in the scholarship program will safeguard CACAONICA‘s future.
  • The profitable partnership between farmers and Ritter SPORT will motivate other companies to become more inclusive.
  • Through the National Cocoa Round Table, public policies will facilitate the implementation of a more inclusive cocoa trade in Nicaragua.
  • The Cocoa Trade world-wide will be secured thanks to a more sustainable model of production which will be capable of overcoming the challenges of climate change and meeting the increasing demands of new markets.