La Esperanza, Cocoa farm

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La Esperanza, Cocoa farm: Conserving rainforest and growing fine cocoa

El Castillo, NicaraguaNicaragua
Year Founded:
2005
Organization type: 
for profit
Project Stage:
Start-Up
Budget: 
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

We are working to establish a fine cacao farm and preserve the rainforest in the buffer zone of Rio San Juan Biosphere Reserve in Nicaragua. The farm acquired in 2005 has an area of 28,2 ha, 80% covered by forest, the remaining is the agroforestry system. Future plans include artisanal chocolate.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if the world can have more delicious chocolate while preserving rainforests?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Cocoa crops in Nicaragua usually belong to small scale farmers that have plantations of around 1-2 acres. Some changes in the patterns of land use are happening and more farmers are changing their traditional cattle ranching for this kind of crop, however there is still a big gap in the financial options for small farmers and is difficult to reach international markets

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Given the current trend of the Cacao market, with high prices and a high demand for the product, a plantation of Cacao, that meet international standards and certifications is a good investment that will generate economic revenues for the investors and the farm. We will implement a plantation of cacao, using the most recognized cultivar strains and best genetic materials available in the country. We'll be partnering with the local cocoa cooperative in order to have a win win relationship for the management of the crops and postharvest process. The agroforestry system will combine cacao plants with other fruits and trees. We want to go further in the value chain, creating artisan chocolates and establishing our own personal brand.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Evolving from cacao growers to processing it, diversify the products, create artisan/high quality chocolate goods, establishing our own personal brand and place the brand in the international chocolate market is our great long term goal. For this we will require to establish a small scale plant for processing cacao (roasting, winnowing, milling and refining). In this way it will help to create an impact with local cocoa farmers since at this moment they are selling raw unprocessed cocoa beans to intermediaries, and create awareness toward Nicaraguan rainforest & cocoa production.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

We are starting but we think that this project may help local people, not only since we are going to generate employment in the area, but since we are planning to support training local farmers, our employees, and support the local cooperative so they can have a fair access to the chocolate markets.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

We are one of the many farms in the area. Creating capabilities around the cacao value chain, local growers in Rio San Juan may receive a higher income for their work through creating a business opportunity for growing, selling and processing cocoa. This will require to work close with local farmers in the region in order to stimulate the cocoa crops and increase yields. Since cocoa plantations works better in shade-grown agroforestry systems, this project will help to restore the soils affected by the former cattle ranching activities. It may help to enhance local capacities and awareness.
Sustainability

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

We already invest part of our personal savings acquiring the land, and we understand the need for financial support. Although we are open to receive donations we are more interested in INVESTORS. We've created a financial model including revenue generation for 10 years and reinvestment. We would like to collaborate/train other local cocoa farmers so they can receive financial support. We are planning a crowdfunding and open to suggestions.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Great projects such as Original Beans or Maya Mountain Cacao have been a great inspiration for their conservation and chocolate entrepreneurial work. Although we are a small venture we hope that in the future the cocoa harvested in Rio San Juan and especially our chocolates can gain international recognition for its quality and commitment with the environment. The local cooperative is a great ally and we are receiving advising from friends and colleagues in Nicaragua and abroad, for example Grupo Laera helped to "check the numbers".
Team

Founding Story

In 2005 Robin and Claudia came to Nicaragua, fell in love with Rio San Juan and bought a piece lof land, of which around 80% is covered by forest. As a biologist and nature artist, we wanted to restore the land that was once cleared. Cacao seemed to be the best option for the area, under an agro-forestry and sustainable farming scheme. In 2013 we created a small family business to run this agroforestry enterprise and chocolate making: Schiele Indigo Investments.

Team

Claudia Múnera, biologist and birdwatcher. I am in charge of projects, the dreamer of the team and chocolate fan. Robin Schiele, Nature artist, the visionary and conservation advisor of the project Mariajosé García is our administrator, and in charge of the numbers; she is also partner at Indigo alongside with Robin and Claudia.

Comments

Ben Granlund's picture

Hi Claudia - I sent a message yesterday but realize the format made it very convoluted. Sounds like a great project and I would love to talk about helping with eco-design and master planning. Best - Ben

Claudia Munera's picture

Thanks Ben, just read your message, will reply soon, thanks!