Pursuing organic certification is a long, tedious journey
but would eventually reward the farmers and the environment. Through the Organic Conversion Program, Auro Chocolate hopes to assist farmers in this journey.
Young pods grow at one of the trees in our partner farms
Recently, we have introduced the newly-formed organization of SOFO, a small group of farmers in Saloy, Davao who are part of our latest initiative: the Organic Conversion Program (OCP). But one might ask, why organic? Our organic journey started because of various reasons - namely, new market opportunities, healthier farms, healthier products, and the promotion of biodiversity.
Organic farming would open up new opportunities for us and our partner farmers. With the increasing preference for sustainable and organic products, we would reach markets that would secure a higher price at the farmer level. The practice is also beneficial for the environment in the long term. Going organic means promoting biodiversity by focusing more on the sustenance of the farm ecosystem - from maintaining the fauna of the land to practicing intercropping. In addition, by removing synthetic fertilizers, the soil of the land and the cacao that will be harvested would become healthier. For the consumers, this means their exposure to pesticides or chemicals is reduced, making it healthier for consumption.
SOFO does a composting activity as part of their conversion process
Of course, that does not mean that the conversion would come without any challenges - by committing to organic, farmers would have to change their whole routine, do more documentation, and lastly, pay an expensive fee in pursuit of certification. However, we believe that there should be a cost-effective solution for a practice that promotes natural farming, which our farmers have been practicing for the longest time. Thus, we have developed a program that aims to make this journey accessible and affordable for our participating farmers.
With the Organic Conversion Program (OCP), we have plotted an action plan that would bring us and our partner farmers closer to organic certification:
We conduct free, regular training on Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and organic farming standards with a partner organization to equip our partner farming communities with the knowledge they need. The non-governmental organization of MASIPAG o Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura is currently providing us technical assistance in conducting our organic training sessions.
Conversion of Practices to Organic
We monitor the progress of our partner farmers and assist them whenever necessary as they change and improve their practices in accordance with the standards set by organic certifying bodies.
Sponsoring the Organic Applications
Auro Chocolate will be sponsoring the participating farmers by covering the full cost of the farmers’ application for organic certification. In addition, their cacao will be purchased at an agreed premium price as long as they pass the prescribed organic standards.
Through these steps, we hope to achieve organic certification with SOFO in the following years. At the same time, it is our ambition to replicate this program and certify more organic cacao farms of our partner farmers. With organic certified chocolate, we would be another step forward in our pursuit of traceability while ensuring that we provide healthy, sustainable products.
Written by: Ira Mendez