Ecuador has always been a heartland for cacao. It is the country of origin of one the finest cacao variety, Cacao Nacional Arriba, which is famous for its complex aroma. However, the current proliferation of more profitable cacao varieties, which are intensely cultivated in monocultures, is negatively affecting the fertility of the land and the preservation of the high-grade Arriba cacao. Non-sustainable farming practices lead to lower profits, and both humans and the environment suffer as a result.
HALBA works together with the UNOCACE and Fortaleza del Valle small-scale farmer collectives in Ecuador, who are still dedicated to farming the high-grade Cacao Nacional Arriba variety of cacao. Since 2016, HALBA has worked with UNOCACE to increase the productivity of quality cacao and promote dynamic agroforestry methods. In this method of cultivation, cacao is planted together with a variety of other cultures, such as annual crops as well as fruit trees and high-grade timber trees. Mixed farming of this kind increases the fertility of the land and, as a result, the productivity of cacao. It also contributes to securing the sustenance of small-scale farmers and increasing and scaling their income.
Initially, farmers are often sceptical about this new approach to farming. However, the success of farmers who switch to environmentally friendly agroforestry eventually wins over even the sceptics. With the FINCA project, our UNOCACE partner cooperative trains local farmers as coaches together with HALBA and their partners. To increase opportunities for women, a minimum quota of 25% has been established. The participants then pass on their knowledge to interested farmers. Over time, many farmers have imitated the concept of mixed farming on their plantations. The positive effects of HALBA’s commitment thus spread to other parts of the Ecuadorian cacao industry and environment.
HALBA received the Swiss Ethics Award in 2018 for its FINCA project in Ecuador. The award is bestowed by the Swiss Excellence Forum and honours the annual performance of companies and organisations that take responsibility in an extraordinary way and that are actively committed to sustainable corporate leadership.