Peru | Smallholder farmers

Partnership for growing sustainable cocoa

2 June 2021 10:00

Peru is the second largest producer and exporter of organic cocoa, after Ecuador. Unfortunately, the many smallholder farmers don’t reap the full benefits of their sweet success. They lack the knowledge needed to improve the quality of their cocoa, and are burdened by the effects of climate change.

Cocoa smallholder farmer in Peru


start collaboration Rabo Foundation and Helvetas


farmers will potentially be involved

21,600 ha

of total cocoa production area

175,796 ha

of eligible area for climate smart agriculture activities

The NGO Helvetas works on their behalf, together with other NGOs, fair trade partners, buyers, local governments, and financiers. With their assistance, farmers can make their production more sustainable, gain a better position in the global market, and earn higher incomes as a result.

The challenge

More than 90,000 families in Peru owe their livelihoods to the production of cocoa. But more than one third of them live under the poverty line. Their harvests don’t yield enough production because they lack the knowledge necessary to improve the quality of their cocoa to earn higher prices for their crops. The farmers also suffer from the consequences of climate change, which are causing crop diseases among some varieties of cocoa beans with productivity losses as a result. To avoid this, farmers need to use extra weed control and pesticides, which in turn reduces the quality of their produce.

Helvetas: power in partnership

The Swiss NGO Helvetas has been active in Peru since 1982, and has built up a strong network in the country. Its position has enabled it to bring together local governments, knowledge institutes, fair trade organizations, other NGOs and financiers. Rabo Foundation has recently joined in a unique partnership with Helvetas, cocoa wholesaler ECOM, the Earthworm fund, chocolatier Choba Choba, the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture FiBL, fair trade organization Max Havelaar, sustainability consulting institute South Pole and the local government of San Martín in northern Peru.

The multi-stakeholder approach helps several farmers’ cooperatives in the San Martín region to:

    find fertile land for farming. This enables farmers to use less pesticides, increase their production and grow more high-quality cocoa suitable for the global market; diversify their crops. With access to high-quality cocoa shoots and seedlings and those of other products, such as bananas, oranges or rice, farmers can enjoy more good harvests and higher incomes; complete training and certification for climate-intelligent farming of high-quality cocoa; gain access to the global market for high-quality cocoa. The partners bring farmers who grow high-quality cocoa into contact with buyers willing to pay a good price for their produce; implement agroforestry. That is the planting and re-planting of native species of trees to compensate for CO2 emissions and to increase the local biodiversity and soil quality. In the process, farmers can help provide a solution to a problem of their own making: the structural deforestation of Peru for use as farmland, including cocoa farming.

All of this makes the smallholder farmers more resilient against climate change, reduces their greenhouse gas emissions and increases the productivity of their cocoa farms. The Helvetas partners can then help them sell their sustainable cocoa on the global market, while restoring Peru’s nature, allowing the Peruvian farmers to increase their prosperity and build a better future for themselves and their country.

The impact forecast

    14,400 farmers will potentially be involved 21,600 ha of total cocoa production area 175,796 ha of eligible area for climate smart agriculture activities

Helvetas and Rabo Foundation

In 2020, we joined Helvetas’ partners as a financier and sealed our partnership with a financial contribution. We also shared our knowledge on trade finance mechanisms and network, for example by introducing the cocoa cooperatives that we already support via other means into contact with Helvetas. We want to contribute by helping to elaborate a green finance mechanism that provides incentives for farmers to use the production techniques they will learn with the program. That will allow them to grow cocoa more sustainably. In 10 years’ time we will be able to see the complete results of the project.

We chose for this collaborative effort because Helvetas’ mission and those of its partners are directly tied with our impact goal of facilitating climate smart agriculture. Thanks to the project, smallholder farmers will become more resilient against climate change and will sustainably increase their incomes. Their high-quality cocoa in turn strengthens the sustainable cocoa chain – yet another one of our impact goals.