The start of something sweet
Juan urged us to come a little bit closer to look at what was growing on some of the trees on his farm.
A team from Plant With Purpose was visiting Juan and some of his neighbors in his community in the Dominican Republic. For years, Plant With Purpose had been working in partnership with these farmers. Our goal was to address some of their biggest ecological challenges while also equipping them to overcome poverty.
Underneath the shade of taller banana trees grew another set of trees. Cacao. To an untrained observer, it might have looked like a disorganized cluster, but a lot of thought went into the way in which Juan planted his trees. The two crops, cacao and bananas, were a perfect pair to grow in proximity to one another. The shade and roots of the larger trees helped keep the cacao healthy. He learned this technique by participating in a Farmer Field School and it paid off significantly.
In the past week, Juan had been able harvest three whole cases of cacao pods. Each of those cases was worth about $20. He was able to harvest these trees consistently throughout the majority of the year. This income significantly helped Juan’s family.
Chocolate is a major crop in the world economy
During the week of Valentine’s Day, nearly 60 million pounds of chocolate will be sold. 20% of chocolate consumed that week will likely be in the United States alone.
The chocolate industry has a significant impact on many developing nations, as emerging economies represent all of the top chocolate producing nations. Côte d’Ivoire produces the highest amount of cacao, at 1.4 million tons. They are followed by Ghana and Indonesia. Most countries that are able to grow cacao well are tropical climates with elevated areas.
The Dominican Republic is 10th on the list in terms of quantity, but it has emerged as a leader when it comes to sustainable cacao production. It works to ensure that cacao traded is certified as fair trade and is produced in an environmentally sustainable way.
Plant With Purpose helps by making sure farmers are able to meet sustainability goals and to do so while overcoming poverty.
The benefits of sustainable and fair farming stretch wide
Perhaps it’s appropriate that so much chocolate is exchanged on Valentine’s Day, because Plant With Purpose’s work among cocoa farmers had been guided by a love for all creation.
Not far from where Juan works is Lucas’ cocoa farm. After participating in a savings and empowerment program, Lucas was able to invest in the equipment needed to harvest and process large amounts of cacao pods. This allowed him to create work opportunities for many of his neighbors, and he offered us a tour of the facility.
“I was able to rent my own cocoa farm here,” explains Antonio, one of the workers we met on the site. “This investment helped support my family, improve our home, and finance my wife’s urgent surgery.”
These farmers don’t rely solely on cocoa, as Plant With Purpose encourages growing diverse crops. They do, however, recognize that it remains a very important and valuable crop.
Back at Juan’s farm, he tells us that his cacao trees are expected to be productive for fifty years. These will help provide for his children and grandchildren. His kids are already able to go to school.
“I hope this land continues to provide enough for me to provide for my family,” Juan notes. “I give thanks to God!”
The rural poor in the developing world grow the most food, but often have the hardest time feeding their families. Want to help support cacao growers like Juan and Lucas along with other farmers? Learn about becoming a Purpose Partner!