Rio Grande, Nicaragua
DefinitionDevising project idea, defining the aim and main components
DesignSpecifying details such as time-frame, budget, target indicators, project partners and relevant steps to reach the project objectives
FinancingSearching and securing funding and investment, setting up relevant financing partnerships, and discussing payment modalities
ImplementationExecution of feasibility studies, context analysis, plot design, planting and setting up facilities and starting with potential capacity-building
MaintenanceOperational phase (monitoring and evaluation, impact assessments and adjustments, execution of educational programmes and long-term capacity building)
Scaling UpScaling up phase is when the project it has already shown success by obtaining impact as well as economic results and it's ready to become replicable.
Located between the impressive presence of Mombacho Volcano and adjacent to Lake Nicaragua (the largest freshwater lake in Central America) is the principal agroforestry cacao orchard of Argencove and cattle ranch Rio Grande. Nicaragua’s abundance of biologically significant and unique ecosystems contributes to Mesoamerica’s designation as a biodiversity hotspot.
The Pacific lowlands region is the country’s economic and demographic center. To keep a healthy socio-economic and environmental balance in this region it is important to scale participatory regenerative agroforestry programs. Rio Grande is making an impact by producing premium chocolate and beef through agroforestry systems that benefit the local ecosystem, community, and final customer. 5000 families including direct employees, local businesses, and people along different value chains are expected to benefit from this project.
A need for change in the Nicaraguan food system
Nicaragua is the 2nd poorest country in the Americas. Agriculture and tourism are the main economic drivers of the country which has recorded negative growth over recent years and the COVID pandemic has just worsened the situation. Agriculture constitutes 60% of its total exports mostly as cash crops that are commoditized.
However, due to the large demand, conventional farming issues have arisen, such as soil erosion, heavy use of pesticides, and inorganic fertilizers. The challenges CyB is facing are connected to regenerating the areas of the farm that have been previously broad acre cropped and deforested.
The land has been abandoned for an extended time. Technical assistance is needed to assist in scaling a successful pilot silvopasture system that provides shade for cattle, prevents soil erosion, enhances the soil profile, and increases biodiversity. Furthermore, CyB is looking for financial partners to support them on their mission to establish a sustainable food system for premium agroforestry products, which are exported into the Americas.
Agroforestry for positive impact
CyB is deploying agroforestry systems suited to the region’s climate to preserve and reinvigorate the local ecosystem. Agroforestry helps to maintain moisture and nutrient cycling in the local environment while encouraging local pollinators and habitats for transitory species through wildlife corridors.
To improve the socio-economic situation of employees and surrounding communities, technical training programs have been developed on the farm. ReNature will assist CyB in technical reviews for carbon sequestration, tree species selection, and assisting in sourcing transitioning finance.
The objective of CyB is to scale regenerative cacao production to 20 hectares and the silvopastoral system to 3000+ heads. Furthermore, they aim to scale the business by expanding the market share of Argencove Chocolate in Central America and the US through direct sales via ecommerce and a new subscription model.
Argencove Chocolate has already won 34 international awards and they wish to continue broadening their product line and to secure more sales (and awards). This way, they will contribute to the socio-economic and environmental impact of the region and establish a sustainable food system of high-quality cacao/chocolate and beef.
Producing food in harmony with nature
CyB knows from experience that running an agricultural and food business in harmony with nature is good for the environment, the farmer, and the taste buds. A balanced ecosystem is more resilient to weather and disease pressures and produces better products. They also believe that it is in the company’s best interests to treat, respect, remunerate and train its employees in a positive way because these are the people who make the company successful.
Rio Grande has 20 ha of riparian (waterway) protection and they are replanting another area of 50 ha with native trees to reinvigorate the local ecosystem’s viability. Water availability and soil quality are key positive impacts on the farm. The agroforestry & silvopasture system helps to retain moisture and improve the health of the soil through leguminous leaf litter and the application of composted manure.
Over the past 3 years, they have improved the irrigation systems to consider the meteorological data to accurately identify the correct irrigation levels for cacao, shade trees, and precious woods. The carbon sequestration capacity is improving with 67,000 trees planted in the last 3 years and 32 ha of improved pastures planted so far. Over the next 4 years, they expect to plant another 600,000 trees into the silvopasture system on another 230 ha of improved pasture.
Prioritising local livelihoods
Argencove (CyB’s chocolate Brand) has become known as the best chocolate company in Nicaragua and CyB is the only farm selling beef into the premium line of one of the local meat distributors. Locally they are known for adhering to MARENA/EPA guidelines. CyB provides aboveaward wages as a principle to their 40 employees and provides formal training by medical, safety, environmental, and machinery companies to continue increasing the skill
set of their employees.
Higher salaries improve nutritional diets, education, and medical care. To improve the country’s reputation and farmgate prices for farmers CyB works the ICDF (Taiwan Technical Projects) on cacao industry development strategies in Nicaragua. The chocolate factory is completely run by women. By increasing the scale and quality of the chocolate and beef enterprise CyB plans to have 80 direct employees within 1 year.
The CyB agricultural model is based on regenerative and ecological principles and practices. The business model vertically integrates the key elements of production, processing, and marketing. This way it generates economic resilience through diversification of high-quality products, and a production system attentive to best practices at every level and stage of the food chain system.
The upscaling of agroforestry will enable more people to receive fair prices for their products. Additionally, the services of another 11 companies are being used to scale the economic impact in the surrounding. There are 200,000 people in the local Granada region and thus the expenditure in the local economy benefits the employees and services that they fund.