The five-year initiative focused on increasing farmer income through productivity, strengthening farmer associations, and improving education and resilience in rural communities that have been strongly affected by violence.
The Cacao Effect Project - five key areas
- Productivity: Enhanced cocoa productivity with over 700 participating farmers trained in Luker’s climate-smart agricultural methodology, including agroforestry design, pruning, and soil nutrition; the participating farmers saw an increase in productivity of 42%.
- Entrepreneurship: The Cocoa Effect partnered with the communities to help bring innovative new business ideas to life that would bring in new and lucrative income streams. 837 individuals were trained in entrepreneurship, 63% of whom are women.
- Farming Associations: The Cocoa Effect worked to strengthen farming associations – an important source of support for small farmers – with administrative training programmes, technical help, and advice on best commercial practices so that they could provide better support to their members. Over 20 cocoa farming associations were strengthened with a 36% improvement in the Organizational Capacity Index among associations from 2019-2023.
- Education: The Cacao Effect partnered with rural schools in the regions to implement thorough reading and vocational education programmes to improve comprehension skills and better equip teens to find future jobs. 3,606 children, youths, and adults received academic programme training.
- Resilience: The project engaged with farming communities that have suffered through years of conflict to help them both recover and improve resilience against future challenges. The Cocoa Effect worked with 1,435 individuals in neighbouring communities, offering psychological support to help develop coping mechanisms for conflict resolution.
Luker, alongside its partners, contributed to the economic and social transformation of 18 municipalities in Urabá Antioqueño, Bajo Cauca, Huila, and Tumaco, with more than 700 farmers trained in Luker’s climate-smart agricultural methodology, increasing their productivity by 42%.
The Cacao Effect Project was rolled out as part of Luker’s plan, ‘The Chocolate Dream’ - a root and branch of the Colombian company’s sustainability strategy.
A five-year cooperation agreement was signed on 30 November 2018. The Alliance consisted of Luker Chocolate, USAID Colombia, Luker Foundation, Enel Colombia, Saldarriaga Concha Foundation, EAFIT University, and IDH (the Sustainable Trade Initiative).
Together, the shared mission was to strengthen cocoa production and enhance the livelihoods of cocoa producers and their communities in four main regions of the country, Urabá, Bajo Cauca, Huila, and Tumaco – areas historically affected by conflict, illicit crops, and violence.
Julia Ocampo, Luker's VP of Cacao Sourcing and Sustainability said: “The Cacao Effect set the foundation of our anchor model approach, that we currently use to implement The Chocolate Dream. By partnering with diverse allies, we are able to have a more significant impact on the communities and their ecosystem. As we grow The Chocolate Dream, we will continue working with cocoa-growing communities, focusing on generational inclusion so that young people have better opportunities to integrate into the sector and see a prosperous future in cacao.”
Cocoa for peace
For decades, the Colombian countryside has been the scene of armed conflict, with cacao farming areas lying within some of the most impacted regions. These territories have suffered the effects of conflict connected to the prevalence of illegal crop cultivation.
Cacao growing has emerged as the conduit for economic empowerment in these communities, following a $36.35 million dollar investment – of which $7.5 million came from international cooperation, mainly from USAID.
In the past five years, The Cacao Effect has been a guiding light for cocoa-growing communities in Colombia, creating inclusive rural development opportunities that are sufficiently powerful to improve the quality of life of the producing families and their communities.
“Although this project reaches its conclusion, we want to emphasise that the work does not end here,” said Jeremiah Carew, Mission Director in Charge of USAID Colombia, “on the contrary, with the alliances we have strengthened and improved capacity, cocoa farmers have a path forward to continue generating greater income.”