Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The cocoa experimental centre: technical assistance meets organics meets young farmers’ dreams

It is a very sunny morning when we arrived to El Ceibo experimental center. Sergio Ichuta gives us a friendly greeting at the entrance. At 28 years old, he is deputy director of the agroforestry department. El Ceibo provides training and job opportunities for its members. This is welcomed by the farmers, not only because of the personal development, but also because they can give something back to the cooperative. It struck me how important it is to work for El Ceibo and share with other cooperative members in return for all the benefits they receive. But the farmers do not feel it as an obligation; they do it with pleasure because they see a direct benefit for themselves and their families.
We followed Sergio around the center where the cooperative tries growing different cacao varieties and use different techniques. For the first time in my life, I tasted the cacao fruit. It is greasy and its tastes is quite sour, but nice. A bit far away, I found Marta Sipe and Lidio Vaquiata doing seed grafting, a labor intensive job. Marta and Lidio are relatives of El Ceibo members. Dispite their different ages and stories, they share the same dream: to buy a cacao plantation plot. With the training and experience they gain working for El Ceibo and their savings they are confident that their dream will soon come true.

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