Peru | Smallholder farmers

New crop offers hope to Peruvian cocoa farmers

2 June 2021 9:00

Hundreds of cocoa farmers in Peru face an urgent problem: stricter regulations mean that their product is no longer welcome in the EU. That puts a lot of pressure on their already-low incomes. One solution involves switching from farming cocoa to sugarcane. In a pilot project by cooperative Norandino, 160 smallholder farmers receive assistance in making that transition. The objective: a stable living income.

Cocoa smallholder farmer cutting cocoa beans


start collaboration Rabo Foundation and Norandino


farmers are switching from cocoa to sugarcane

120 ha

of sugercane is being planted

The challenge

Dramatic drops in cocoa prices on the global market have already threatened the incomes of cocoa farmers, and now they face yet another challenge. The European Union has adopted stricter rules for how much cadmium is permitted in chocolate. Cadmium is a harmful substance that enters cocoa beans from contaminated farmland. To continue earning a living, many farmers face only one choice: to switch to farming another crop. But the poorest farmers in Peru can’t take that step without assistance.

Norandino: great solution for cocoa farmers in need

For almost 30 years, the cooperative Norandino has been a helping hand for thousands of farmers in Peru. Thanks to the cooperative, their harvest and product quality are increasing and they have access to loans, markets and agricultural expertise.

And now, Norandino has come to the rescue of the hard-hit cocoa farmers once again. Through a pilot project, the cooperative supports 160 smallholder farmers in the transition from cocoa to sugarcane; a crop that is easy to sell and earns higher incomes than cocoa.

This is how Norandino helps the smallholder farmers:

    long-term loans to replace cocoa trees with sugarcane. At the end of the project a total of 120 hectares of sugarcane will have been planted. technical assistance for all 160 farmers in making this difficult switch from one crop to another. training and sharing knowledge on how to grow sugarcane sustainably and process it to panela (unrefined whole cane sugar). financing and assembly of three large installations for processing sugarcane. These serve as examples for other regions to copy, with financing and donations from other parties.

For a farmer, switching entirely from one crop to another is a difficult and high-risk enterprise. But if the approach goes as planned, then they’ll soon have more than twice the income that they earned farming cocoa. This is a huge step forwards in the standard of living of these farmers, who have so far been among the land’s poorest agriculturalists.

Testimonial Norandino

Norandino and Rabo Foundation

We’ve had a productive partnership with this Peruvian cooperative for more than 20 years. The projects we support are always geared towards the organization’s poorest participants. This project is no exception. Switching to a new crop is a difficult and expensive step for many smallholder farmers. We assist these farmers with the transition by offering financial assistance and training in agricultural skills. We financed most of the pilot project’s needs, and we made a donation for the three vital processing installations. The transition to new crops has made the farmers more resilient in the face of climate change, which is an important element of our strategy. Rabo Foundation added value to this project by offering high-risk capital and specific products and services to guide the transition.

Norandino in 2021

Give as many smallholder cocoa farmers as possible a new, stable income: that is Norandino’s goal in this three-year pilot project. The first 160 farmers will complete the project in 2021. If it is a success, then the cooperative is eager to expand the approach to other regions.

Find out more about our impact in Latin America in 2020. Explore our results and read more stories that showcases how we create growth opportunities for smallholder farmers.