After many farming challenges, we are harvesting our first cocoa yields. And we bring now other small-scale farmers in Cambodia on board as cocoa farmers. And to our pleasant surprise, many foreign customers from Japan, South Korea, and Singapore till Europe and the US discovered the quality of our cocoa and are willing to place orders.
The quality of our soil, our way of managing, the treatment with organic fertilizers and with self-made organic pesticides (based on extracts of neem leaves and bark) are all ingredients for the amazing taste of our cocoa beans.
But even more important is our fermenting method and our solar drying.
We now have the knowledge on how to create the best cocoa beans. We also have our own nursery where we grow and graft cocoa seedlings. And we have already many potential customers who trust in our quality. Therefore we decided to take it a step further and introduce other farmers to the difficult but lucrative cocoa farming. Cambodia is unique when it comes to farmland. Many people still own quite a big piece of land but what they are lacking, is knowledge.
So, How Do We Proceed?
STEP 1: Land & Water
There are two main conditions when it comes to your farmland and the climate: the Ph of your soil, and the availability of water in the dry season.
Ph is a sure thing: ideally, your soil needs a Ph between 6 and 7. If it’s below this level, you can add on lime, but when your Ph is quite low, it can cost you a small fortune to add enough lime.
Water is the other essential for your cocoa, and we experienced this first hand. We’ve been there: not having enough water sources to irrigate your land, is a direct “license to kill your plants”. To avoid future water problems, either your land is located close to a river that never dries up in the dry season, or you have the guaranteed possibility to drill for groundwater.
STEP 2: Preparing
In the months January till April, you prepare your land. You clear it, plow it deep enough to make sure that the root system of certain types of grass has been destroyed. We didn’t do this in the beginning. As a result, we wasted a huge amount of labor and money on weeding this grass. And because we want you also to get organic certification, it is not allowed to use herbicides to get rid of the grass.
The next phase is measuring and creating the layout of your agroforestry cocoa farm. We can help you with this. Once you know the trick how to do it, it is easy.
STEP 3: The Trees
In April and May, you start by planting all seedlings except the cocoa seedlings. We stimulate you to intercrop the cocoa trees with fruit trees like banana, mango, avocado, jackfruit, durian, and other fruit trees. Intercropping helps you battling uninvited and unpleasant guests like insects and fungi in a natural way.
Make sure you water all fruit trees by hand because you plant them before the rainy season kicks off, and you probably didn’t have time to install an irrigation system yet.
The banana trees will grow super fast and are needed to create the necessary shade for the cocoa.
Beside the fruit trees, you also plant the fast-growing Leucaena (shade!) and the Neem tree. The Neem is a perfect natural anti-pest soldier. Later you can use its leaves to create your own organic pesticide. We tested it and it works perfectly. No need to waste money on expensive chemical pesticides, and even better: your farm will stay organic.
The banana and other fruit trees can create a small extra income for you.
STEP 4: Cocao Trees
In May and June, you can start planting the cocoa seedlings. We sell these seedlings to you for a very competitive price as low as $0.78. You can even pay them off in the course of two years but we won’t advise you this because the price will be 25% higher in total.
STEP 5: Irrigation, Fertilization & Pesticiding
During the rainy season you have the time to prepare an irrigation system. If you have only 1 or 2 hectares, you can even decide to irrigate the trees by hand. I don’t think we have to underline the importance of irrigation to you during the dry season. We ourselves had the bad luck of not having enough water resources in one of the worst droughts in decades in South-East Asia and we lost almost all our seedlings.
Fertilizing is the other super important element. You can create your own fertilizer by making compost of cow manure mixed with certain types of grass, banana trunks and other organic material. We can advise you in this.
Sometimes you will be plagued by certain insects and fungi. There are quite a few ways to handle this. The correct farm management is the most important way in this: making sure that your trees are pruned well, and exposed to the right amount of wind, and sun. The intercropping will be a natural defense line for you, but the Neem tree will be your most important ‘partner-in-crime’ as we discussed above. Again, we can advise you in this all.
STEP 6: Harvesting
After 2.5-3 years it is time for your first yield. If you will do well, you will have a decent small yield in the first year of around 500kg per hectare, calculated in dry fermented beans (in cocoa pods it probably will be around 10x higher). In the next three years, this will go up to 2,000 till -in some cases- even 3,000 kg fermented, dry beans per hectare.
STEP 7: Fermenting & Drying
This is an easy step for you. You literally don’t have to do anything, except for bringing the cocoa pods to us (or the wet beans but we can discuss this separately).
You can ferment yourself but because this is a very crucial – and quite difficult – step in the taste development of the bean, we advise you not to ferment yourself, especially not in the beginning. Besides, it is quite labor-intensive and requests skill.
To also dry the beans in a good way during the rainy season when there is less sun, you have to build a solar dry house. But also in this case, you can leave the drying process to us. We simply pay you a percentual price for the cocoa pods.
London Cocoa Price + 30%
The London Cocoa Price changes daily and is based on dry, fermented cocoa beans.
You can follow the cocoa price yourself on the internet. There are several websites that publish this price. To name a few:
– Index Mundi
This makes the price for you very transparent: But now it is important that you follow organic cacao farming as indicated by the Cacao Farmers Assocation Rattanakiri & Mondulkiri (CFARM). If CFARM can confirm that you are practising organic cacao farming methods, then we will pay you the London Cocoa Price for dry cacao beans + an extra 30% on top of it! Also, we will buy from you the wet beans and we will do the fermenting and drying process for you.
Every month one of the cocoa specialists of CFARM will visit your farm to guide and assist you with your farming decisions. This is completely free of charge. You will have first-hand access to our cutting-edge production knowledge. It is in both our interest that you not only will reach a high yield per hectare but also a high, consistent and organic quality of the cocoa.