Farming and Agriculture

Advancing Organic Cacao Cultivation in Agroforestry: Successful Training in Bolivia

Quick Share

22 May 2024, Bolivia: An international training course on organic cacao production in diversified agroforestry systems took place at the beginning of April in Bolivia. The two-week course, organized by FiBL Switzerland together with Bolivian partners, shared experiences and research findings from our project Long-term farming systems comparisons in the tropics (SysCom) Bolivia and fostered discussions on sustainable agricultural practices.

At the Sara Ana Research and Training Center in Bolivia, agricultural enthusiasts from Latin America and Europe converged for a 13-day international training of trainers workshop on “Organic Cacao in Agroforestry Systems.” Organised by FiBL Switzerland, Ecotop, and Piaf El Ceibo, with support from the Leopold Bachmann Foundation, this immersive training attracted 24 technicians and facilitators from Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, and Europe.

Exploring sustainable practices: learning and exchange

Participants delved into experimental and farmer-led agroforestry plots, absorbing research outcomes from the Long-term farming systems comparisons in the tropics (SysCom) project. Discussions centered on the necessity of agroecological practices, biodiversity preservation, and soil fertility enhancement within dynamic agroforestry systems. The exchange of experiences and challenges fostered a vibrant learning environment throughout the workshop over the two weeks.

Insights from the SysCom Bolivia project

Together with FiBL, Ecotop, Piaf-El Ceibo and the Institute of Ecology of UMSA La Paz, form the partners of the SysCom Bolivia project. The FiBL team organized and moderated the course and presented methods and results from 15 years of scientific research on the Long Term Experiment (LTE) at Sara Ana Center which is comparing cacao monocultures and agroforestry systems, both with organic and conventional management. The trial also includes a dynamic agroforestry treatment without external inputs.

The participants were enthralled by the well-managed plots, the amount of information shared with them, and the high productivity (700 – 1900 kg dry beans/ha). Seeing that highly diverse agroforestry systems can yield not only cacao but also interesting yields of banana or ginger, resulting in comparable gross incomes to monocultures, underscored the attractiveness and viability of agroforestry.

Pioneering initiatives in Bolivia

Even though Bolivia is not a huge cacao producer, the area of Alto Beni region serves as an exemplar of innovative organic cacao production, agroecological, dynamic agroforestry, production know-how and robust producer organisation. In Alto Beni, Bolivia, the experiences of organically certified cacao production and strong producers’ organisation through the El Ceibo cooperative are unique, and thanks to El Ceibo and the Fundación Piaf El Ceibo, those were shared with the participants. Participants gained insights into organically certified cacao production and associated services, including participatory variety selection, testing and seedling production, agroforestry tree seeds collection, organic fertilizers production, and shade tree pruning. Participants were especially impressed by the level of organisation and the fact that El Ceibo employed many young people and motivated them to farm cacao. Participants had also the chance to visit the centralised fermentation and drying of cacao beans in Sapecho and the chocolate factory of El Ceibo in La Paz.

Another important experience in the region, which is meanwhile exported from Bolivia to Latin America and Africa, is the work of Ecotop on dynamic agroforestry. In the course, the 25-year old dynamic agroforestry plots of the pioneersby Walter Yana and Joachim Milz, showcased this production systems with exceptionally high crop and species diversity. Participants marveled at high-density systems featuring ginger, vanilla, coffee, pepper, rambutan, avocado, copoazu, asai and citrus trees as by-crops of cacao. Ecotop also promotes the installation of plots without burning, and during the course participants visited young systems with rice and other crops of short life cycles, which are implemented together with the future cacao and shade tree plants, simultaneously. The team of EcotopP, with their experience with training on dynamic agroforestry, shared valuable and unique didactical tools and methodologies with the participants, who will use them later in their contexts.

Towards sustainable cacao production

Within a previous project phase financed by Leopold Bachmann Foundation, training materials documenting the experiences and results of the SysCom project have been developed and were shared with participants in paper and digital form, enabling them to experiment in their respective context.  

As part of a global endeavour to promote sustainable cacao production, the experiences from Bolivia serve as invaluable lessons for experts worldwide. Looking ahead, two international courses are planned for 2025, catering to English and Spanish-speaking audiences alike.

You can follow Sara Ana Center for Research and Training on Instagram or Facebook to keep updated about the activities.

Also Read: ICAR-CIARI Researchers Resolves the Mystery of Andaman’s Local Choi Jhaal: DNA Barcoding revealed as New Species for Indian Flora

(For Latest Agriculture News & Updates, follow Krishak Jagat on Google News)

Quick Share