As the world cocoa community meets in the Dominican Republic this week, the Government is developing a National Action Plan, supported by UNDP, that could see 30,000 small-scale cocoa farmers boost their livelihoods over the next decade.
The Dominican Republic’s famous fine flavor cocoa is a vital source of international revenue for the country, but poverty remains high among cocoa producing communities. Small-scale farmers produce more than 50 percent of the country’s cocoa, often using outdated methods and lacking the financial means to invest in their plots. This means that crop yields are low, profitability is negligible, and farmer incomes remain at poverty level. This negative cycle also means that the next generation of farmers is increasingly seeking better opportunities elsewhere.
Through the country’s first National Cocoa Platform – led by the Ministry of Agriculture and the National Cocoa Commission – more than 300 people, representing groups along the value chain, have contributed towards creating the new National Action Plan. They included producers, government institutions, research centers, civil society and aid agencies.
The Plan seeks to shift the entire sector towards sustainability. A central component will involve rolling out a national system that will see the public and private sectors working together over the next ten years to increase their yields and livelihoods. Farmers who participate in organized commercial supply chains will gain training on best farming practices through their buyer or processor, while those who sell through informal networks will receive such support from the Ministry of Agriculture.
Efforts will also get underway to set-up localized outlets where farmers can access good quality planting materials, fertilizers and pest-management products. Meanwhile, a consortium of organizations, including professional schools and academic institutions, will develop curriculums, methodologies and needed educational materials to train and support farmers.
Responsibilities have also been assigned to different actors to bring a range of public services to isolated farming communities. The aim is to improve the well-being of communities as well as their livelihood options. Without these services and opportunities, the next generation of farmers will continue to abandon cocoa in search of better chances in urban areas.
At the policy-level, many different sets of regulations on agriculture, land-use, environmental protection, rural development and more currently govern the cocoa sector. Sometimes these overlap, conflict or leave gaps. Through the Plan, stakeholders will revise these within the next two years, creating a coherent set of laws and polices.
Overall, through the Plan, the Government aims to increase national
cocoa production by 200 percent over the next 10 years, providing
greater income opportunities for farmers, their communities and the
country as a whole.