October 25, 2016
By Sylvain Goupille, Founder and Managing Partner
[caption id="attachment_5283" align="aligncenter" width="607"] Billboard presenting the agroforestry project in area 2 (of 7)[/caption]
I had the chance of being invited to the second anniversary of Coopaser, the cooperative of cocoa farmers initiated by our partner, Aider. With the objective of having 4,000 hectares of fine and aromatic cocoa planted and processed around Puerto Maldonado (Madre de Dios, Peru), Coopaser is a key element to providing alternative livelihoods to the local population in the region and thus reduce deforestation threats to the protected area of Tambopata and its buffer zone. The success of Coopaser is critical for a sustainable landscape in Tambopata so I was impatient and eager to see the status of the programme.
[caption id="attachment_5284" align="aligncenter" width="765"] Coopaser extraordinary assembly for the cooperative second anniversary.[/caption]
I attended the extraordinary assembly of the associates of Coopaser. The 2 year old cooperative is now exceeding 300 members and rising. 200 of them attending the assembly and sharing their enthusiasm for the programme, with an expected 1,200 hectares of cocoa to be planted by the end of the rainy season, in March next year, increasing revenues for 300 families. After a very dry year, some farmers expressed concerns about climate change and how this would affect their daily lives. Gilberto Santa Rosa Vera, the Chief Technical Officer of the programme explained that agroforestry systems such as those implemented by the project are more resilient to droughts and climate events; he also mentioned that the programme will test irrigation systems next year. Finally, the president of the Cooperative, Sr Cirilo Odeon, on behalf of the members, thanked Althelia for its support in the establishment of the cooperative (see photo). The assembly ended up with a traditional dance from the s’eja indigenous people and a lunch with all cooperative members.
[caption id="attachment_5285" align="aligncenter" width="865"] The Althelia team receiving an award from Sr Cirilo Odeon, president of Coopaser[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_5286" align="aligncenter" width="552"] One of the nurseries of the programme, with Gilberto, Chief Technical Officer[/caption]
I then went to visit one of the nurseries of the project. Overall, achieving 4,000 hectares requires planting almost 5 million cocoa trees and close to 1 million other indigenous trees (inga edulis, mohogany, ipe, etc). The programme has implemented nurseries at farmers’ plantations when space is available but has also established 2 large nurseries, each with in excess of 120,000 seedlings being grown. Each of these young cocoa trees are from native cocoa of the region and will then be grafted with fine and aromatic flavour cocoa clones, in order to achieve good diversification of genetic material.
[caption id="attachment_5287" align="aligncenter" width="539"] Celebrating the first stone of the cooperative’s collection center[/caption]
Finally, I was invited to lay the first stone of the cooperative’s collection and fermentation centre, which will open in December with a capacity of production of 200 tonnes of dry cocoa beans per month. Together with the president of the cooperative and the general manager of Aider, we “paid the earth” (“Pago a la tierra”) with wine, sweets and local products, to ensure a fruitful development of this installation.
The cooperative is on track and will have significant positive impacts on the communities as well as ensuring the reduction of deforestation of the protected area. This is a model that should be replicated further along the buffer zone of Tambopata National Reserve and in other protected area. With this in place, and despite threats from illegal mining in other areas, we expect to see further reduction of deforestation and restoration of degraded land.