Growing sustainable cocoa in Colombia's coal country
La Jagua de Ibirico, Cesar, Colombia
About the project:
The Caribbean region of Colombia suffered from decades of conflict during the country's long civil war. Today, much of that land is severely degraded, partially due to extensive open-pit coal mining. Initiative 20x20 partner 12Tree is now rehabilitating 400 hectares of cocoa plantations in La Jagua de Ibirico. Hacienda Maquencal is a large farm in the Cesar department, spanning 947 hectares, 200 of which are protected natural and old-growth secondary forest.
After decades of instability, Maquencal provides a well-paid and sustainable source of employment in this recovering region. As part of its commitment to its employees, 12Tree raised wages and provides healthcare, pensions, professional development and safety training and education for the farm's 206 employees and their families.
12Tree has made the farm climate-smart by composting cocoa pods that would otherwise go to waste to use as soil-improving organic fertilizer. To improve efficiency, they are revamping the watering system with the latest and most efficient drip irrigation technology and constructing a reservoir that will provide the farm with sufficient water even during the severe droughts that will occur more frequently as the climate changes. The farm is also collecting data to more effectively manage the amount of water and nutrients that its crops require. Through this monitoring program, Hacienda Maquencal is using less fertilizer and water while producing the same amount of cocoa.
12Tree has also built a state-of-the-art post-harvesting center that preserves and processes the cocoa to extend its shelf life. The facility will ultimately allow for a faster and more even fermentation and drying process, substantially improving the quality of the cocoa and increasing its attractiveness to international buyers. In the coming years, the company aims to expand its production by working with local small farmers in its outgrower network and obtaining UTZ certification.