From artisanal gold mining to sustainable cocoa farming
The Amazonian region of Madre de Dios in Southern Peru is hard hit by pollution from small-scale gold mining, with over 50% of the population making a living out of intensive panning. Choosing to turn the tide, 60 families have abandoned polluting and unhealthy gold prospecting practices to establish a cocoa farming cooperative called Agrobosque. Building on an initial 3-year grant, Terre des Hommes Suisse will continue to help its 200 members strengthen the cooperative's production capacity and marketing to ensure it offers them and their families an improved livelihood in the long term.
Intensive panning in southern Peru has had dramatic consequences, including rainforest destruction, mercury and cyanide pollution of soils and rivers, the loss of traditional agricultural activities and the disintegration of the social fabric of the communities concerned.
Between 2013 and 2016, Terre des Hommes Suisse successfully supported artisanal mining communities in the Inambari district of the Amazonian region of Madre de Dios to improve their gold extraction practices and adopt more sustainable alternatives to gold prospecting.
Some 60 families in these communities decided to abandon gold prospecting altogether and established the Agrobosque cooperative in an effort to reshape their livelihoods. The cooperative's over 250 members received training in essential techniques for cocoa cultivation and development, seed selection and reproduction with the aim of sustainably producing, selling and ultimately exporting highly sought-after native cocoa (Cacao Aromatico).
The programme aims to consolidate and scale up the results achieved in the first phase.
The Agrobosque cooperative is expected to gradually enhance its size, profitability and self-sufficiency through training to boost its cocoa and agricultural yields, strengthen its sales strategies and management practices, and link farmers to local and international cocoa buyers.
Members will primarily focus on improving the quality of the cocoa, boosting its production, processing and sales operations, and ultimately gaining fair trade and organic certification, which will also allow for higher returns.
Concurrently, the cooperative will actively promote the creation of fruit and vegetable gardens and fish farms to diversify its sources of income, improve the families’ diets and develop understanding and awareness of agroecology in the region.
- The Agrobosque cooperative increases its membership to at least 75 families (250 people) and expands the area it cultivates from 30 to 200 hectares to develop cocoa production. Strengthening its processing, management and sales, the cooperative becomes self-sufficient.
- The cooperative’s members increase their family revenue by 30% from agricultural work and by 10% from other activities, such as fish and small livestock farming.
- The cooperative provides at least 80 members with micro-credit to improve their farming outputs.
- The creation of vegetable gardens enables the cooperative’s members to diversify their diets.
- At least 700 primary school children in the area improve their nutritional status thanks to the creation and maintenance of school gardens.
Cocoa has proved to be a particularly wise investment as an alternative development crop in Peru, and is playing an important role in helping resource-poor farmers reach high-value markets. The combination of significant public-sector investment, strong global demand, and favourable local growing conditions has translated into a substantial increase in national production over the past decade.
Addressing the multiple social challenges facing informal miners’ groups in the Madre de Dios region, this programme will support the Agrobosque cooperative to become an economically self-sustaining and a socially-recognized player by 2020.