An interview with Carolina Aguilar, Cocoa Director, MOCCA project, Latin America, Lutheran World Relief | IMA World Health
The Maximizing Opportunities in Coffee and Cocoa in the Americas (MOCCA) project is a five-year initiative funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and implemented by a consortium led by TechnoServe, Lutheran World Relief leads cocoa activities in the six prioritized countries (Honduras, EL Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Peru and Ecuador). MOCCA is strengthening farmers’ capacity to use best agricultural practices, increasing access to the resources needed to implement and maintain their improvements, and integrating them into markets that reward their efforts with higher returns.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your abilities to implement MOCCA programs in six Latin American countries?
MOCCA faced delays in implementation, and this was expected, considering that we prioritized the safety and security of our staff, and the farmers and the communities that we work with. We had to adjust our plans to maintain engagement with the cocoa farmers by using information and communication technologies, especially smartphones and SMS messaging. LWR already uses a mobile application, Cacao Movil, that provides content and methodology to learn and train others.
Despite this challenging environment, what have been the top major achievements within the first two years of the program?
- Partnering with the private sector: Several companies are co-investing with MOCCA in the cocoa communities, especially on training and access to quality genetic materials
- Creating a research network around cadmium and sharing scientific results to farmers
- Linking buyers and cocoa farmers in more direct trade relations
- Launching a cocoa diploma targeting a new generation of trainers for the six MOCCA countries
- Supporting the development of international standards for cocoa quality assessment
Can you explain the flavor map developed by LWR and how it is benefiting farmers and the private sector?
The Cocoa Flavor Map was created about four years ago and included three Central American countries: Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. The objective of this tool is to help cocoa producers to better connect with buyers of fine-specialty cocoa, who can easily identify the sources for the cocoa flavor, profiles and special characteristics they are looking for.
MOCCA is helping to expand this work to include Guatemala, Peru, and Ecuador, where we are screening the current quality available at the farms and cooperatives, experimenting the application of modified post-harvest protocols for optimal flavor expression to develop the new cocoa profiles that will be included on the map.
What is the role of FCIA and its member companies in MOCCA?
The FCIA has a fundamental role in MOCCA as the link between the farmers and markets. Several FCIA companies are also investing with MOCCA to support farmers with trainings on renovating and rehabilitating their cocoa farms to increase yields and improve practices, but they are also incentivizing quality with higher prices.
How has MOCCA helped in the development and implementation of cocoa quality and flavor standards?
MOCCA is supporting the Working Group on quality standards, helping in the translation to Spanish of the protocols that have been developed so far, and making them available in the six MOCCA countries with trainings and demonstrations in partnership with Bioversity International and the FCIA members that also participate in the Working Group. MOCCA will work with the FCIA and other allies to develop local capacity in assessing cocoa quality.