The Organic Growers Dominican Foundation (FUNDOPO) is an umbrella organisation of small producers in the Dominican Republic growing high quality cocoa for fair prices.
This article was written in April 2014.
Officially set up in 2007 in Villa Altagracia, FUNDOPO unites some 1,500 farmers in distant regions where poverty is widespread and communities rely on cocoa production as their main source of source of income.
The average farm size is on average just 1.5 to two hectares, with farmers growing a mixture of crops organically to sell at local markets to supplement their income, often growing citrus fruits among the cocoa plants. Some 15 per cent of these farmers are women, who own their land outright, rather than alongside their husbands.
The cooperative works closely with Yacao, an organisation set up in 1999 to help the small scale farmers generate a good income by producing top-quality cocoa. It works with FUNDOPO to establish long-term relationships with each producer based on Fair Trade principles that includes guaranteeing to buy all the cocoa at a fair price (although the FUNDOPO farmers are not obliged to sell to Yacao if they prefer to sell it elsewhere) and providing ongoing training.
Once the cacao fruits are cut from the trees by hand during the two harvesting seasons, they are taken to local collection centres. They are then delivered to the Yacao processing centre, where they are fermented and dried. After being carefully quality controlled, they are then bagged and shipped to Europe to be turned into cocoa butter and cocoa powder.
FUNDOPO has used Fair Trade premiums to support a variety of projects within its communities, from building community centres and infrastructure to creating clean water supplies and supporting training.