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Acorn expands in Latin America

Acorn now has projects starting in Mexico, Brazil and Honduras. Here are some learnings from our more mature projects in Latin America by our account manager, Paola López. 

Acorn in Latin America: the latest developments

With projects starting in Mexico, Brazil, and Honduras, Acorn is now active in six countries across Latin America—the other three being Colombia, Nicaragua, and Peru. It’s a region with many coffee farmers, allowing for insetting, and many regions either are still forests (or used to be), making agroforestry a solid choice to either preserve or regenerate the biodiversity at the heart of Latin America’s ecoregions. 

These projects are made possible by our account managers, who work closely with local partners both during the certification process and beyond. Paola López is one such account manager, and recently visited Nicaragua and Colombia to meet with local partners, farmers, and other stakeholders. In this travelogue, she shares her experiences.

A visit to Nicaragua 

I had a very intense but fruitful week! I started my journey meeting the country Director of Lutheran World Relief and their staff based in Managua. We are currently onboarding an NGO as a local partner in Peru and Guatemala, and potentially also in El Salvador. It was great to see their enthusiasm for Acorn. 

On the second day, I had a full day at the Rural Investments Forum organized by FAO, presenting the results of Acorn’s activities in Nicaragua. I also met the Nicaragua’s Head of Climate Change Office and he spoke about new regulations coming up in Nicaragua. For us, it is very important to stay connected with government officials, as we want to be front runners when implementing the legal requirements. 

Don Juan, cocoa farmer in Nicaragua

For the remaining days, I had the opportunity to work closely with our current local partner in Nicaragua. For almost a year, I have been working with several people online – so it was great to finally meet them in person. It was impressive to see how the team has expanded, including all the tools and procedures that they are creating to ensure that all relevant stakeholders are tuned in to the latest updates from Acorn. We exchanged many learnings and tips with Solidaridad Nicaragua, particularly about Acorn’s Data Collection Tool that their cacao cooperatives have been enthusiastic about.  

Challenges for Nicaragua farmers  

During the trip, I also visited two cocoa farmers. We first visited Don Juan, who has been in the cocoa sector for almost 20 years. He works with many projects to test new varieties, techniques and methods. He just planted 130 timber trees (on the edges of the farm), because he wants to protect his crop against the hurricanes that devastated his crop in the past. He wants to leave his farm to his children with some additional savings—so after 30 or 35 years, his children can use the money of the timber to improve the farm. 

We then visited Doña Santos. She has a very beautiful farm (in my eyes, it looks like a forest), but unfortunately it is also unproductive: the cocoa trees are huge and old, and they produce very few beans. She has to renew the crop in phases so she can still make some money for her family.  

Unfortunately, Doña Santos lost her son two years ago, who was the one helping her with the farm activities. Migration in Nicaragua is a very big problem, so finding labor to do all the necessary work, as well as the investment to renew the crop is quite an issue. Despite all of this, she transforms beans into cocoa butter and she sells it as a way to increase her income. 

Doña Santos, cocoa farmer in Nicaragua

Back to Colombia: creating trust with farmers  

During my last field visit in Colombia, we saw the power of Solidaridad in creating trust with farmers who are convinced of the value of trees. Those farmers are an incredible example for others, as agroforestry in coffee is not generally practiced in Colombia. Solidaridad’s strategy is to prove that trees can be beneficial for the farms, and carbon income is a plus for those activities.  

Today, their coffee project has 70 people working, with at least 50 people working daily on the farm: in a normal week, they invest 75% of their time in finding eligible farmers and 25% in training events for groups of farmers. 

 

The power of collaboration 

Solidaridad has a network of “promoters” or “lead farmers”. They are trained in detail about agroforestry and carbon, and their mission is to share this knowledge with their communities. They created “community groups” that meet once a week to set up nurseries or vegetable gardens, plant trees, support the harvest of coffee of their team members, etc. This strengthens social connections, as they cook, eat, and dance together. 

We witnessed the power of collaboration, and I say power because there are no monetary payments for those community groups (at all, or upfront). They do, however, receive support from Solidaridad to get the materials for setting up and certifying nurseries, for running the vegetable garden, or to acquire some animals for food security (laying hens, for example). Solidaridad also supports the nurseries by buying their seedlings. The community groups generate income from selling some products or seedlings derived from their communal activities – this can allow them to buy two piglets to produce meat as a small gift during Christmas, for example. 

Paola (left bottom) at farmer meeting

The Carbon Farming Academy 

In addition to community support, Solidaridad also digitally supports farmers to promote their carbon knowledge. Training individual farmers can be expensive, so Solidaridad created the Carbon Farming Academy, a portal that explains all about trees, carbon, and Acorn through videos. This has evolved to content streaming via WhatsApp, and is now successfully used by many farmers. 

There is so much to learn from one another, but this is why we find power in local partnerships. We look forward to strengthening our connections with local partners and farmers on the ground. 

About Acorn

We help support smallholder farmers in developing countries transition to agroforestry. Together with local partners, we facilitate the funding and training needed by farmers to start their agroforestry transition. Transforming the sequestered CO2 through agroforestry into Carbon Removal Units (CRUs), we offer carbon credits to responsible corporates to help them reach their climate goals. The growth of the trees is measured with satellite imagery, AI and LiDAR, and certified by ICROA-accredited Plan Vivo.

With 80% of the sales revenue going directly to the farmers, it creates an additional income stream and helps them adopt a more climate-resilient way of farming that improves food security, biodiversity, and financial independence.

Get involved with Acorn

Meet our people

Paola López VargasPartnership Lead South America, Centro America & the CaribbeanLinkedIn

Read more about Solidaridad Colombia on our blog

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