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A Transformative Journey in El Salvador

By Roberto Razeto

Central America’s Cacao Cultivation: a Community-Driven Solution Solution in the Fight Against Climate Change

In the evocative documentary "Los puentes colgantes" (The Suspension Bridges), just produced by the Italian organisations IILA (Istituto Italo-Latinoamericano) and IULM University, viewers are taken on a journey through the heart of Central American cacao farming. This film, part of the REVICACAO Project funded by the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS) and managed by IILA, explores the crucial role of cacao cultivation in addressing climate change through sustainable, bottom-up agricultural practices.

The documentary introduces us to Pedro, a dedicated cacao farmer from El Salvador, who transformed his cattle ranch into a thriving cacao farm. This shift underscores the sustainability and environmental benefits of cacao cultivation, presenting it as a viable alternative to more ecologically damaging practices like cattle ranching. Pedro's story exemplifies how cacao farming, with its lower carbon footprint, can help combat climate change by preserving forest cover and enhancing soil health.

Empowering Local Communities

"Los puentes colgantes" highlights the work of a cooperative of cacao farmers in El Salvador committed to improving the quality of their cacao and accessing new markets. With the support received these farmers have adopted advanced agricultural practices and developed innovative cacao-based products. This grassroots movement is pivotal in the fight against climate change, promoting biodiversity and sustainable land use.

The cooperative's efforts to improve cacao quality involve adopting organic farming methods, reducing the use of harmful pesticides, and implementing agroforestry techniques that integrate cacao trees with other native plants. These practices enhance the ecological health of the farming areas and increase the resilience of crops to climate change impacts. By maintaining diverse ecosystems, these farmers protect their land from adverse effects like soil erosion and decreased water availability.

Connecting Tradition and Innovation

Another fundamental concept presented in the documentary is the importance of local knowledge and traditional farming practices. The farmers in El Salvador combine modern agricultural techniques with their ancestral knowledge, creating a harmonious balance between innovation and tradition. This approach respects cultural heritage and ensures that farming practices are well-suited to the local environment.

"Los puentes colgantes" also emphasizes the role of education and community support in fostering sustainable agriculture. Through workshops and training programs facilitated by IILA and AICS, farmers gain valuable skills in sustainable farming, business management, and market access. These educational initiatives empower farmers to take control of their economic future while promoting environmentally friendly practices.

Economic Impact of Cacao in Latin America

The cacao market in Latin America is a significant economic force. In 2023, the market revenue of cocoa in Latin America and the Caribbean amounted to 2.32 billion U.S. dollars, with expectations to continue growing through 2028. This growth is driven by increasing demand for high-quality cacao and chocolate products globally. Countries like Ecuador, Brazil, and Colombia are major contributors to the region's cocoa production, with Ecuador being a leading producer, harvesting a substantial volume of cocoa beans annually. These economic drivers provide further incentives for sustainable practices that ensure long-term viability and market competitiveness.

A Call to Action

The documentary is more than a film; it is a compelling narrative that connects local agricultural practices with global environmental goals. It underscores the importance of bottom-up approaches, where community-led initiatives drive sustainable development. The resilience and innovation of Central American cacao farmers offer valuable lessons in the broader context of climate change mitigation.

Running for 21 minutes and 54 seconds and presented in Spanish with Italian subtitles, the documentary has garnered 58 views as of June 4, 2024. Despite its modest viewership, it carries a powerful message about the intersection of agriculture, sustainability, and climate action, and deserves being promoted as an instructive best practice.

Building a Sustainable Future

Through the eyes of Pedro and his fellow farmers, "Los puentes colgantes" invites us to reflect on the impact of our choices on the environment. It calls for support of sustainable practices that not only enhance economic viability but also protect our planet. The film stands as a testament to the potential of cacao cultivation as a model for sustainable agriculture, contributing to a healthier and more resilient world.

As the global community continues to grapple with climate challenges, the stories of these cacao farmers serve as a beacon of hope. Their efforts demonstrate that sustainable agriculture, driven by local communities, can play a significant role in the fight against climate change. "Los puentes colgantes" celebrates their achievements and underscores the importance of grassroots initiatives in building a sustainable future.

Interconnectedness of Agriculture, Culture, and Environment

"Los puentes colgantes" offers a poignant reminder of the interconnectedness of agriculture, culture, and the environment. It highlights the transformative power of sustainable farming practices and the crucial role of local communities in driving environmental change. As we face the growing threat of climate change, the documentary serves as a call to action, urging us to support and learn from the innovative and resilient farmers of Central America.


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