The Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF), a member of the Inter-American Development Bank Group, is partnering with Kraft Foods on a project that will significantly boost exports of organic cocoa from Belize by connecting small farmers in rural Mayan communities to global supply chains. The project is funded by a grant with a total value of just over US$1 million, provided by the MIF, Kraft Foods, and the Toledo Cacao Growers Association (TCGA).
Cocoa is becoming one of the world’s most sought-after agricultural commodities, due to both increased chocolate consumption in developing economies, and political and environmental challenges in cacao-producing regions. A recent report by North America’s largest cocoa bean processor and chocolate manufacturer, Blommer, projects that by 2020, cocoa demand may exceed production by 1 million metric tons.

A new technical capacity building project in southern Belize, approved by the MIF in May 2012, will help smallholder farmers to competitively and sustainably participate in the world market for organic cocoa. In the isolated agrarian communities of Toledo, where 79% of households fall below the poverty line, organic cacao cultivation is an environmentally friendly form of economic development that provides much needed income to rural Mayan families. Furthermore, it is  an important cultural practice, having been cultivated by Mayan communities for over 2,600 years.

This project will work with the TGCA to expand economic opportunities for cacao growing communities in rural Belize through three main approaches: providing farmers with technical assistance to strengthen their production of cacao using organic and sustainable methods; transferring technical know-how in harvesting and processing methodologies that ensure the cocoa meets flavor and quality standards; and strengthening the TGCA’s business management capacity, including implementation of a geographic information system for forecasting and strategic planning. The project will also promote the parallel cultivation of other high value organic crops, such as spices and peppers, to supplement farmers’ incomes. Multimedia training kits will be developed in the Kek’chi and Mopan Maya languages, and documentaries and case studies on the sector will be produced.

Some 1,100 small farmers and their families are expected to increase their income levels as a result of improving their productivity and quality. In the longer term, the TCGA and its members are expected to double the volume of their cacao exports into high value markets, from 45 tons to 90 tons per year.  The area of land certified as organic and fair trade will also increase by 30%. The project also seeks to expand the participation of women and youth in cocoa production, through training in bean fermentation, and financial literacy.

Since its founding in 1993, the MIF has executed hundreds of projects that help small producers of agricultural commodities improve their production and connect with global supply chains.  The participation of Kraft Foods UK’s Sustainable Supply Chain Division in this project will provide opportunities for farmers to participate in supply chains with significant potential for scaling and expansion. TCGA has an existing relationship with Kraft Foods’ premium Green and Black’s organic chocolate brand.

This project embodies the MIF’s commitment to expanding business capabilities and economic opportunities for low-income populations in Latin America and the Caribbean, with a particular focus on fighting poverty in rural areas.  These efforts considerably improve lives through facilitating access to markets and capabilities.

The project is scheduled to begin implementation in the summer of 2012.