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Alto huallaga

Alto Huallaga, cocoa, Peru (producer)

According to statistics provided by the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO), smallholder farmers produce approximately 95% of the world’s cocoa. The average size of a cocoa farm is three hectares and production in most of these is low. 

Alto Huallaga is a cocoa producing co-operative located in the Huánuco region of central Peru. The co-operative was formed in 2009 and its membership covers a wide area and varied altitudes, which increases the sustainability of production. 

Since becoming a Shared Interest customer in 2013, Alto Huallaga has doubled its number of employees, and now works with over 500 farmers, over a third of which are women.

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General Manager Jorge Simon said: “The finance in 2013, this is when we started to improve working conditions bit by bit. Before there were no desks or tables or floor (just earth) or internet, then we moved from desk computers to laptops, now we have fibre optic there are so many things that have improved for the workers.” 

Jorge also commented on the impact of finance from Shared Interest on the producers; “The support gave us stability, the interest rate is good, we have good cash flow, and it has generated confidence in the farmers and the workers. When I started, the co-operative owed money to all workers and now it doesn’t owe anything.”

As the impact of climate change makes farming more difficult in Peru, technical assistance and financing has become even more crucial for many small farmer co-operatives. The past two years have been particularly challenging for Alto Huallaga, as pests and disease damaged their cocoa trees.

However, last year, the co-operative increased the amount of cocoa sold to the international market and began new commercial relationships. They are now working on developing derivative products such as cocoa butter and powder: the profitability of these items can be up to five times higher than cocoa beans. To enable the co-operative to produce these additional products, they are building a production plant, which will be completed in 2023. 

The increase in sales and the Fairtrade Premium has also enabled Alto Huallaga to establish a number of initiatives to support farmers. The co-operative provides financial support to workers who require healthcare, and they offer financial support to bereaved workers’ families, as well as mental health workshops. Carlos Enrique Gómez Bernal has been a member of Alto Huallaga since 2012 where he also served as president for seven years. Carlos’ farm is three hectares, and he received the land as inheritance from his parents who were also cocoa farmers. 

He said: “With Covid, the co-operative is always in constant communication with us, you know, about what do we need? What problems do we have? They are always in communication with us. 

“If any of the members were sick, the co-operative was providing support immediately, medicines, they taught us how to make disinfectant foot bath when entering the house, how to manage the entrance of each person when they come to visit you.”

Read the full longitudinal case study of Alto Huallaga here.

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