Eat chocolate and support young cocoa farmers in Nicaragua

Do you have a definite sweet tooth? Do you think that chocolate is the best thing since sliced bread? Then you are bound to have eaten chocolate made with cocoa from Nicaragua. Together with Vredeseilanden (Rikolto) and YOUCA, Colruyt Group has been running a chain project there since 2017. We buy certified cocoa from 200 young farmers and use it to make chocolate. Whether it's dark or milk, our favourite flavour is chocolate made with a conscience.

Help! Cocoa in danger!

Times are tough for the cocoa sector in Nicaragua. Why is that? Young people are no longer interested in joining the family business. The main reasons are:

  • Cocoa doesn't bring in much money.
  • Young people don't know much - if anything - about growing cocoa.
  • Many people see the city as the promised land.

No new young cocoa farmers ultimately means no more squares of chocolate with your cup of coffee. Something that Vredeseilanden (Rikolto) refuses to accept. Coordinator Jorge Flores takes up the story: "In 2015, we joined YOUCA to visit the young people in the La Campesina farmers' cooperative. Our secret weapon was a mixture of technical and general training, which we hoped would interest the young people in growing cocoa. And that proved to be the case."

The location of La Campesina in Nicaragua

Cocoa from the source

And how exactly did Colruyt Group get involved? Over to buyer Koen Debusschere. "Since 2017, we have been supporting Vredeseilanden (Rikolto) with their chain project in Nicaragua. And, to do that, we use our own expertise as a retailer. We buy cocoa from young farmers, we turn it into chocolate and we sell the end product in our Colruyt, OKay and Spar shops." So, our Boni Selection house brand carries two products: one with 72% dark chocolate and one with 35% milk chocolate.

Planting cocoa trees
It takes three years before cocoa trees bear fruit for the first time. As a result, the cocoa harvest increases year-on-year.

Why? Koen: "We are happy to call it social commitment. Our fixed demand for cocoa helps smaller, family farming organisations in the south to improve how they organise themselves. They supply us with sustainable cocoa, which has a UTZ certificate and we help them to create high-quality products that are tailored to the Belgian market. This project adds a little bit more motivation for the young people to stay involved with growing cocoa."

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Buying chocolate = helping cocoa farmers

Can a simple bar of chocolate support young farmers on the other side of the world? Absolutely. You are helping them indirectly in a number of ways and this is how:

  • They get a guaranteed honest income.
  • They get transparent prices for cocoa.
  • They learn to use sustainable farming methods to grow cocoa, plus they apply the UTZ principles.
  • They learn business and leadership skills and become more assertive.
  • They are encouraged to participate in the La Campesina cooperative; for example, via the young people's committees.
Cocoa beans
The young people get in-depth training: they learn to use sustainable farming methods to grow cocoa and they gain quite a few other skills along the way.

And that's good for the cooperative, not just for the young people themselves. La Campesina can count on a new generation of motivated farmers. And this safeguards the future of small-scale agriculture throughout the entire region.

Cocoa is the future

In the regions with a chain project, we often support a training project as well via the Collibri Foundation. In Nicaragua, 300 young people aged between 15 and 35 are given theoretical and practical training in cocoa production. This means the local community has all the knowledge they need to make themselves stronger. Because it is young people who are building the future.

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With this initiative, we contribute to the following Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.

Decent work & economic growth Partnerships for the goals