On 25 January 2023, Virginie Diaz Pedregal, Regional Director of the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) in the Dominican Republic, accompanied by AFD Project Officer Laurie Chovet and the Executive Director of the Comisión Nacional del Cacao Señor Víctor Hidalgo, together with two Cacao Forest project representatives (Sebastián Cárdenas and Olivier Deheuvels), presented the National Dominican Cacao Plantations Agroforestry Rehabilitation Plan (PRACAO) to the Dominican Agriculture Minister Señor Limbert Cruz López.
The PRACAO initiative is one element of part 2 of the Cacao Forest project in the Dominican Republic. At the request of the AFD, the project’s scientific coordinator CIRAD, supported by our partner EF, had drawn on the results generated by Cacao Forest since 2015 to set up and run a series of meetings and workshops with our 12 Dominican partners. The aim was to work with them to develop a project to rehabilitate the country’s 280,000 hectares of cacao plantations, cultivated by more than 45,000 families. Based on the four agroforestry models jointly developed and trialled in Cacao Forest’s Participatory Experimental Network (REP), the PRACAO Rehabilitation Plan is supported by our partners in the Dominican Republic. It will be submitted to the Dominican Congress for inclusion in the government budget in 2024 and for a loan application to the AFD. Implementation of the Plan is due to begin in 2024 in the form of four to five 3-year phases to cover a period of 12 to 15 years with a total budget of around US$ 70 million.
PRACAO comprises seven elements:
- Development and greater provision of technical, scientific and academic human resources in agroforestry.
- Creation and expansion of the basic infrastructure, in particular (i) the collection of local cultivars and varietal improvement plans; (ii) clonal gardens capable of supplying grafting material resistant to Monilinia blight; and (iii) public and private nurseries with sufficient capacity to produce the cacao trees and associated species required.
- Rehabilitation of ageing and/or unproductive cacao plantations and assistance with creating new parcels. This element makes use of the four agroforestry models jointly developed and trialled by Cacao Forest between 2017 and 2023. It includes providing producers with technical support, introducing a nursery certification scheme and system for transporting the necessary resources with the help of producer cooperatives and the step-by-step implementation of the agroforestry rehabilitation and new parcel protocols.
- Stepping up and encouraging reliable scientific approaches based in particular on (i) genetic improvement protocols; (ii) profitable agroforestry models; (iii) collections of plants of agricultural importance; and (iv) a culture of scientific rigour and publication of results.
- Ensuring the economic resilience of producing families by providing support and facilities for processing and marketing associated products. This support is designed to promote the inclusion of young people and women at every level of the value chain and to improve the ability of farms to cope with extreme events.
- Communication and relationship-building with the stakeholders to maintain a vibrant relationship between the PRACAO programme beneficiaries, to ensure their actions are transparent and focused, and to facilitate access to scientific and technical information.
- Ensuring the long-term future of the Dominican cocoa industry by making sure it conforms with national and international standards and legislation to safeguard a responsibly produced cocoa supply.
The Minister of Agriculture welcomed the initiative, congratulating the coordinator Cacao Forest for the quality and clear structure of the proposal presentation and stating that it facilitated “the understanding of all parties”. He added that the cocoa industry required the committed involvement and cooperation of all stakeholders to ensure its long-term future. Señor Limbert Cruz López announced that the PRACAO initiative will be given Dominican government support and that he would make Ministry of Agriculture installations available to the programme, including for the event officially announcing the initiative, due to be held at the end of April 2023.
The meeting, which took place at the office of the Minister of Agriculture, was coordinated and introduced by the Executive Director of the Comisión Nacional del Cacao, Víctor Hidalgo, who represented the private sector, the joint originator of the initiative. The Director of the Ministry of Agriculture’s Public Investment Project Implementation Unit, Juan Moreno, and Pablo Rodríguez, Economic Advisor to the Ministry of Agriculture, were also present.