A WOMAN WITH A STRONG CONVICTION DETERMINED TO CONQUER COCOA PRODUCTION

There is no secret formula for success, as the ingredients have always been the same: have clear goals and objectives and work tirelessly to achieve them. In agriculture, success separates producers from harvesters. Bárbara Caba, a cocoa producer in northeast Dominican Republic, is living proof of this.

Bárbara Caba applies the shade control pruning technique on her farm.

Caba had 10 years of experience cultivating cocoa, but her farm was under-performing, and she was worried. Caba was going to have to do something, or she would be forced to sell. In 2019, she connected with the USDA-funded Exporting Quality program to seek advice for her farm, to see if they could help her farm become more profitable. Exporting Quality connected Caba with Yony Molina for assistance, an expert with more than 20 years of experience in the cocoa subsector.

Molina got to work at the start of 2020. He started with an assessment to identify areas for improvement and potential threats. The goal was for Caba to increase profitability by 40-50% over a four-year period. Caba and Molina worked out a plan to achieve this goal, including clearly defined metrics such as the percentage of diseased or affected plants, estimated productivity, labor costs, and plant renewal rate. Caba was receptive and eager, and put into practice all the suggestions made by Molina on behalf of Exporting Quality.

Caba learned multiple production techniques during the consultancy, including uncoating, shade control, grafting, several types of pruning, and sowing associated crops.

The farm’s production increased by 30%, reaching 631kg per hectare, far above the national average of 400kg per hectare — in other words, a yield that many traditional producers only dream of. Even so, Caba is aiming even higher. She wants to reach 850kg per hectare in the next two years, a goal that is not impossible if she follows guidelines outlined by the Exporting Quality team.

Given the fantastic results that Caba achieved, Exporting Quality decided to donate 2,000 cocoa seedlings to her farm. Caba planted them in record time (one month) and dedicated careful attention to each new plant. Caba had a much lower plant death rate than other producers who received plant donation from the program.

Caba’s success is an example of what is possible when you combine focus, dedication, and commitment with high-quality technical expertise in a fruitful partnership. “Thanks to the Exporting Quality Program,” Caba said, “I can confidently say that I am a true cocoa producer.”

Exporting Quality in the Dominican Republic, funded by the United States Department of Agriculture ‘Food for Progress’ initiative and implemented by IESC, focuses its efforts on increasing productivity and sales for domestic and export markets of high-value fruit and vegetable global value chains: avocado, cocoa, pineapple, and greenhouse and Asian vegetables. The program also supports efforts to increase product quality, production efficiency, the value of post-harvest products, and to improve marketing and market linkages.