Lutheran World Relief has won a $500,000 award from the Pathways to Prosperity Innovation Challenge to scale up its innovative cocoa programs in Central America.
The challenge, a region-wide competition conducted by the World Environment Center on behalf of the U.S. Department of State and the Pathways to Prosperity Initiative, sought to discover existing innovative, high-impact solutions that are helping create strong micro and small enterprises in Latin America and that have potential to be scaled up to larger populations and new geographies.
Twelve finalists, out of more than 600 entrants, pitched their solutions in person before a panel of judges and invited guests at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. Lutheran World Relief’s program, Mobile Cocoa: Using Technology to Improve Farmers’ Lives won in the Empowering Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise category.
This project represents the latest evolution in Lutheran World Relief’s cocoa package for small-scale producers in Central America and will integrate the successes and lessons learned from previous work. Using the new Pathways funding, Lutheran World Relief will help 4,000 farm micro-enterprises in Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador with potential expansion to additional countries to improve their competitiveness in marketing cocoa.
The project will combine Lutheran World Relief’s community agriculture extension model, existing printed Cocoa Toolkit, and the currently under-development Mobile Cocoa platform to assist farmers in growing better crops and accessing the global cocoa market.
“Cocoa farmers in Central America face a lot of challenges,” said Jenny Wiegel, Lutheran World Relief’s Nicaragua-based regional representative. “Cocoa originated here, but today the region isn’t well known for cocoa production. However, we’ve seen that with the right training and access to resources, cocoa farming can be a viable livelihood — and the global market is growing, so we want to be able to help more farmers tap into that potential. We believe that satisfying the growing demand for cocoa, and helping farmers, can and should go hand in hand.”
Lutheran World Relief published a print version of its Cocoa Toolkit in 2013, and is now in the process of translating the content to a mobile platform to make it accessible to any farmer with a smartphone or tablet.
“We are so thrilled to win this competition,” Ms. Wiegel said. “We are excited about the potential that cocoa farming holds for Central American farmers, and are so happy to have the opportunity to share our work with even more farmers.”
The work in Central America is part of Lutheran World Relief’s broader Ground Up initiative to improve the lives of coffee and cocoa farmers worldwide. Lutheran World Relief currently works with coffee and cocoa farmers in 10 countries to create linkages that benefit small farmers, contribute to environmental sustainability, and create profits for socially responsible businesses.