CONACADO, Cocoa Co-operative, Dominican Republic

“The great thing about Fairtrade is that it enables cocoa farmers like me to have a say in shaping our future through talking and working directly with retailers and companies. Our biggest worry is ensuring that we have a guaranteed market for our cocoa that provides us with long-term sustainable livelihoods. Through the pricing structure and the Fairtrade premium we will be able to invest in both our business and our community to ensure a brighter future for our family, other farmers and our friends.”     Santos Mendoza, President, CONACADO


Conacado by Simon Rawles
Conacado © Simon Rawles

The Dominican Republic is the second poorest country in the Caribbean after Haiti. Forty-two percent of its population of 9.6 million live below the poverty line (UNDP 2004) and 16 percent live in extreme poverty.
The country’s major agricultural exports are sugar, coffee, tobacco, and cocoa. Around 40,000 small-scale cocoa growers produce between 32,000 and 48,000 tonnes of cocoa a year, mainly for export, with a value of $33m to $67m. The income of small-scale cocoa producers is unstable and unpredictable as it is tied to the volatile price of cocoa on the New York and London stock markets: in 2000, the New York price fell to a 27-year low of $714 a tonne; it recovered to a 28-year high of $3,275 in summer 2008, then plummeted below $2,000 in the autumn as a result of the global financial crisis.

CONACADO background

CONACADO (the National Confederation of Dominican Cocoa Producers) is one of the country’s top three cocoa exporters, selling between 6,500 and 13,300 tonnes a year - around 25 percent of national production.  Around 85 percent of cocoa grown by CONACADO’s members is certified organic.

CONACADO is a democratically-run co-operative made up of 182 small-scale producer associations from eight regional ‘blocks’ and has a total membership of 10,000 cocoa farmers. The average farm is 4.3 hectares (10.6 acres). Cocoa is grown under the shade canopy of tall native trees and smaller banana, citrus, and avocado trees whose fruit is sold at the local market. Vegetables are grown for home consumption.

CONACADO was founded in 1988 at a time of low global cocoa prices as a way for small farmers to join forces and export their cocoa directly to consumer markets and get a higher price by bypassing middlemen. The organisation’s broader mission is to improve the livelihoods of its members by supporting the sustainable production of high quality cocoa beans and by the efficient international marketing of their products. To this end, CONACADO provides a range of services such as technical assistance, processing facilities, warehousing and transport, access to interest-free loans and credit, and support and training to meet Fairtrade and organic certification standards. CONACADO supports many community development programmes and promotes environmental protection and the sustainable use of natural resources in production.


CONACADO and Fairtrade

CONACADO was Fairtrade Certified in 1995 and now sells almost 50 percent of production to the Fairtrade market, up from 10% in 2004.  For these sales the organisation receives the Fairtrade minimum price of $1,600/tonne plus the Fairtrade premium of $150/tonne. If the New York price is higher they receive the world price plus the Fairtrade premium. Organic cocoa attracts an additional premium of $200/tonne. Cocoa accounts for 90 percent of members’ cash income, so the stable price from Fairtrade sales makes a significant difference in the farmers’ lives and allows the organisation to budget for its outgoings between harvests. The Fairtrade premium is reserved for business and community development projects agreed by members. It is distributed to individual blocks at the end of the harvest. Each block presents their ideas to their board which decides which project to fund. The funding is split fifty-fifty between the premium and the block.

“With Fairtrade income we were able to implement a fermentation program to improve the quality of our cocoa and to convert our production to certified organic. This improved our position in the export market. The Fairtrade market is a very important market for the survival of our associates.”

       Isidoro de la Rosa, Executive Director, CONACADO 

Use of the Fairtrade Premium   

Ramigia Moya is a 68-year-old cocoa farmer from the Lascanas Association in the Quebrada Honda community. She is a widow with five grown-up children and lives with her daughter and son-in-law, who helps on the farm. Her association has recently used the premium to pay half the cost of an aqueduct system that has made a huge difference to the community. Pipes have been installed to pump water from a protected spring to standpipes outside150 houses. The water is used domestically for washing clothes so they no longer have to fetch and carry water from a river a kilometre away, which Remigia says leaves her more time to work on the farm and tend her cocoa trees. They still use rain water for drinking but the next step is to invest in a filter system to make the water potable.

Mariano Manzuela is a 64-year-old cocoa farmer and member of the El Mogote Association in Block 2. He and his wife have six sons and five daughters, four of them still in school. He has run his small half-hectare farm for over 30 years, working from 6am to 3pm every day tending his cocoa trees and other crops. He is one of the poorest farmers in the community and has benefited from the Fairtrade premium in several ways.

His colleagues from the block agreed to loan him funds to help extend and repair his house. His children have received secondary scholarships from the Fairtrade premium to pay for school expenses and exam fees. And premium funds are being used to build a new classroom at the primary school his youngest son attends. Mariano is proud that two of his children won university places, but one daughter had to stop because the transport costs were too high. For the future Mariano's biggest hope is that his children will be able to finish their education.           

Other Fairtrade Premium projects

Extra income from Fairtrade sales has enabled CONACADO to establish or contribute to various agricultural and social programmes that benefit members and their communities:

Cocoa production: help members attain higher prices by providing warehousing facilities and transporting members' crops to market. Construction of five new fermentation centres, eight new drying centres, and two central warehouses has helped improve the quality of their cocoa. A wormery has been set up to turn waste into organic compost.

Technical assistance: training courses at different levels for farmers and technicians; quality control; increased yields; organic production programme.

Education: construction of a new school and contributions to school repairs in five regions plus a community centre and library. Students from low-income families provided with scholarships and school materials to support their studies.

Health: rural healthcare clinic for a community whose clinic did not meet basic minimum conditions. Free medical check-ups and awareness-raising sessions on STDs. Improved access to clean water. 

Social: a plant nursery to supply low-cost cocoa seedlings and vegetable plants to farmers so that they can grow their own food; a building to house a computer centre so relatives can keep in touch by email; community hall with subsidized canteen; 80 toilets built in members’ houses.  

Credit Scheme: members can access interest-free loans and credit.

Income generation: ‘Cocoa Tour’ eco-tourism programme for international visitors to learn about cocoa farming and the impact of Fairtrade. Farmers are trained as tour guides. The Women’s Community Group is part of the tour - women from cocoa-growing families have started businesses making cocoa wine, jams, bakery goods, chocolate truffles and community crafts displayed and sold from an artisan hut. Profits are used to help those in need.

Infrastructure: maintenance of local roads and bridges.

Cocoa from CONACADO is available in dozens of Fairtrade products in the UK. As well as chocolate bars and hot chocolate, it can be found as an ingredient in a growing range of categories from cakes, biscuits and cereals bars, to ice cream, sweets, jams and spreads. With the launch of Fairtrade cosmetics, it is also available in moisturisers and conditioners including body butter and shower gel.

Fairtrade Foundation April 2009, updated November 2009

Look for the FAIRTRADE Mark on products. It’s your guarantee that disavantaged farmers and workers in the developing world are getting a better deal.