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El Salvador Cocoa Alliance

The implementation of this five-year national initiative is carried out by a four-member consortium led by Catholic Relief Services, which includes Caritas, CLUSA, Lutheran World Relief and TechnoServe. The El Salvador Cacao Alliance will help revitalize the cacao value chain in El Salvador by creating partnerships among private companies, government institutions, research organizations, academic institutions and producers’ organizations to shape public policy, generate research and create incentives that support farmers.

Cocoa Alliance will work with smallholder producers who have at least one manzana or .7 hectares of land available exclusively for cacao agroforestry systems, without affecting their ability to produce basic grains for their household food security ; the ideal minimum farm size will be 1.4 hectares. The maximum farm size will be 5 hectares. Among the target producers (10,000 direct participants; 35,000 indirect beneficiaries), Cocoa Alliance will prioritize the following three groups: 1) basic grains producers near ecologically sensitive and/or protected areas; 2) producers with fruit tree plots that can easily accommodate cacao and 3) coffee producers who are struggling with the Coffee Leaf Rust crisis, as the development of cacao agroforestry systems is an important climate variability adaptation strategy for lower-elevation coffee producers.

For this $5.8 million project — where LWR is implementing directly — LWR’s added value in the Cocoa Alliance consortium comes from its long expertise on capacity development of local organizations, specially working with those on the cocoa sector through the AdA Methodology (Learning Alliance) and the Cocoa Tool Kit. With these tools, LWR provides technical assistance to producers to improve their productivity and strengthen their business skills to established long term market linkages with international buyers and other value chain actors.


Despite its importance in pre-colonial Mesoamerica as a crop and serving as the region’s first currency, cacao bean production is almost non-existent in modern day El Salvador. Gradually replaced by coffee, cotton, and sugar-cane, the supply of cacao genetic material in El Salvador dwindled and with it producer knowledge of and technical capacity in cacao production. Private and public sector investment in cacao has been largely absent because of the severely limited access to genetic material and production knowledge. Today, the country is ready for a rebirth of cacao; this will require a national level effort to build back both the knowledge and the genetic material associated with this ancestral crop in order to reactivate production at scale.

El Salvador Cocoa Alliance was developed in response to the country’s most pressing development and environmental challenges. Grown on a national scale, cacao has the potential to increase the country’s biodiversity, restore degraded ecosystems, improve the quality of soil and water resources, and foster the potential for adaptation in the face of present and future extreme weather phenomena.

The alliance will create a national extension service for cacao producers, provide high-quality cacao seedlings and help small-scale farmers gain access to financial services. It will also establish post-harvest handling and storage facilities for crops and, through the implementation of agroforestry systems, adopt environmentally sustainable farming practices that include soil and water conservation, and biodiversity.


Establish cacao agroforestry systems that restore and conserve biodiversity for sustainable rural development to increase income and employment opportunities.

  • Promote a policy framework that provides incentives, and specialized research and extension services for the development of a national cacao sector.
  • Support 2,000 small- and medium-sized producers to establish and maintain productive and profitable cacao agroforestry systems.
  • Restored biodiversity and increased resilience to climate change through producers’ improved farm management and use of natural resources.
  • Strengthen producer organizational processes and linkages for engagement in the cacao value chain.

Quick Facts

El Salvador Cocoa Alliance is implemented by a consortium of partner organizations led by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and integrated by Lutheran World Relief (LWR), TechnoServe, CLUSA-El Salvador, and Cáritas. The project is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID – El Salvador) and the Howard G. Buffet Foundation. The Government of Mexico will also provide its technical support. Likewise, the Alliance will work with local and international research institutions to create technical capacity, promote research and development of human capital, all areas that are key to revitalize the cocoa sector.