Working with smallholders in the region of the Valleys of the Rivers Apurimac, Ene and Montaro (VRAEM) in Peru is a challenging task. The region produces approximately 70% of Peru’s illicit coca and is home to the last remnants of the Shining Path, an armed group that has fought a war against the state between the 1980s and early 2000s.
But the area is now also of importance to cocoa production in the country as governmental agencies, cocoa buyers and development programs have been seeking to help expand and intensify cocoa production. Smallholders, who had abandoned their farms after many years of conflict, have returned and seek alternatives to coca production.
Researchers from the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) have supported one of the alternative initiatives, a cocoa value-chain development project sponsored by Lutheran World Relief and Sumaqao, a Peruvian cocoa buyer. Sumaqao has a long history of purchasing cocoa in the VRAEM and working with smallholders throughout Peru on fair trade and sustainable production. ICRAF was asked to evaluate how the project could have a larger impact on smallholders’ livelihoods and what steps should be taken to ensure that value-chain development is gender inclusive.
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