In Honduras, cacao has been traditionally cultivated in the northern coastal region but thanks to this support from the European Union, cultivation has extended to other departments such as Olancho and El Paraíso. The country is still unable to satisfy the demand of foreign markets. In El Paraíso, the PROGRESA project wagered on high-quality aromatic cacao which, according to the International Cacao Organization (ICCO), refers to cacao that comes from the trinitario and criollo varieties. What makes it special are its flavour, aroma, and body. One of the cacao pioneers in the Teupasenti Municipality is Virgilio Álvarez, whose San José Farm is located at 595 metres above sea level.

“I have been growing coffee since 1987, and I discovered that it’s much easier to manage cacao. I manage the plants, and the leaves cover the soil, which reduces weeds. It requires very little labour,” stated Virgilio.

In December 2017, Virgilio decided to invest in 500m2 of high-quality aromatic cacao, taking advantage of the fact that he had 4,000 plantain plants already in the ground and under irrigation. He bought 400 cacao seedlings and planted them under the plantains, which provided shade for the growing cacao. Given that coffee prices were bad at that time, and he lacked the resources to buy more cacao, the PROGRESA project donated 400 more coffee plants, whose genetic quality was certified.

“I invested in drip irrigation and other cultivation costs on 1 hectare. I have also done all of the pruning,” he noted. 

The use of plantains for shade was a good strategy, since it generated income for two years. These earnings were used to invest in fertilization and weed and pest control of the cacao plants. Later he replaced them with timber-yielding trees. By the third year, he had a small harvest of 98kg, and 659kg in the fourth year, generating an income of around 450 dollars. The flowering this year promises a good crop for the fifth year. Due to his perseverance, the PROGRESA project has supported him with an irrigation system for 350m2, which currently being installed.