Cocoa Producer Finds Success Learning from Other Farmers

Nagua is a small town in the Dominican Republic, and locals would not describe it as an agricultural hub. But Nagua native Pedro Martínez is committed to continuing the family farming tradition in his home town.

Pedro is pursuing his lifelong dream of becoming a successful cocoa farmer. When he learned about a Farmer Field School that was being held near his home, in the Hato Mayor province, he knew he wanted to take advantage of this special opportunity.

Farmer Field Schools are peer-to-peer learning opportunities for Dominican farmers to learn new techniques and technologies in a practical setting, working in the field with the crops they grow. IESC’s USDA-funded Exporting Quality program has facilitated Farmer Field Schools for avocado and cacao growers and has trained nearly 350 cacao farmers.

Forty-three cacao farmers took part in the field school in Hato Mayor. In the first sessions, Martínez and his cohort learned new ways to prune and graft their cacao trees and how to apply organic fertilizers. Farmer Field Schools have the advantage that farmers can quickly implement what they learn.

After applying what he learned on his farm, Martínez reported that his production increased by 40%. After completing the Farmer Field School, which will include topics like plant nurseries and pest management, he expects that his farm’s productivity could double.

Martínez is one of the top students in his cohort, and he hasn’t missed a day of training, despite mobility challenges resulting from a childhood injury. In fact, he is one of the top cocoa producers in the region and an active member of the Cocoa Producers in Action and Progress Association in Hato Mayor.

He is committed to seeing his operation grow and thrive, and he performs nearly every agricultural task on his 48-hectare farm. “Results that I’ve gotten from the Farmer Field School are very positive. [I’m] implementing everything I’m learning right away on the farm. It’s helping me improve my overall production, which makes a notable increase in my family’s income,” said Martínez.

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.