Honey and chocolate forest
The Honey & Chocolate Forest is located around the town of León, North-West of Nicaragua. Being the driest region of Nicaragua, Leon faces huge problems related to both deforestation and desertification. Due to a long history of intensified agriculture with cotton, sugarcane and peanut soil fertility is severely depleted. Combined with high inputs of pesticides, common to most monoculture cultivation, soil life is being destroyed and water is polluted. Strong winds blow away fertile soil particles, increasing the problems. The severe environmental degradation in León was one of the main reasons to start a smallholder reforestation program. The program is strongly supported by local governments, acknowledging the need to take action against desertification and temperature rise in the region.
The reforestation program started in 2011 with finance from the Municipality of Utrecht and LBSNN (Netherlands) and the implementing local partner Fundacion DIA. Besides combating desertification, the forest plantations will generate an alternative source of income for the farmers (high quality timber). Since 2014 the project obtained a GoldStandard certification and is linked to the carbon market.
Also a cocoa- and honey production chain is being developed and integrated with the reforestation activities. The businessmodel that was developed proved that the integrated approach of forest plantations with honey and cocoa is a commercially competitive landuse model to the destructive monocultures (peanut/cotton/sugar cane) in the region. As such, the project is now ready for upscaling with commercial financing.
At present, 101 hectares has been reforested with 39 smallholder farmers. From this 101 hectares, 63 hectares are certified for the carbon market (GoldStandard) generating 5,739 carbon credits. In 2015-2016 another 105 hectares have been planted. These areas will be added to the existing carbon certification in 2017, creating a total of 168 hectares of certified area. The objective is to have 600 hectares of certified area by 2021.
Since 2015, a honey production chain has been set up. At present, the project has 230 hives in production. By the end of 2016, a total of 416 hives will be in production. The aim is to have 1,500 hives in production by 2021.
Since 2015, Fundacion DIA started with the production of cocoa plants. By the end of 2016, 5,000 cocoa plants will be planted. By 2021, a total of 50,000 cocoa plants have been planted. At this scale, the project must be commercially sustainable by 2021.
Due to linkage with the carbon market, revenues will be generated by the sale of carbon credits. Average carbon sequestration is about 4.3 tCO2 ha-1 year-1 during the 30 years crediting period, generating an average of 3 salable carbon credits ha-1 year-1 . The timber species used in the project are high values species (e.g. Mahogany, Ceiba, Cedrus, etc.), which will generate considerable mid- and long term revenues for the farmer (respectively 15 and 30 years).
At full project scale (year 2021), farmer revenues generated from timber, honey, cacoa and carbon credits are around 3,000 USD year-1 (discounted over 30 years) which is considerably higher than current prices farmers receive for cultivating monoculture crops such as cotton, peanut and sugar cane (at present only USD 250-300 ha-1 year-1). As such, the timber-carbon-cocoa-honey landuse model is an economically attractive and sustainable proposition to smallholder farmers in the region.
ForestSense and ProClimate are currently in discussion with various commercial investors that are interested to invest in the upscaling of the project. Individuals and companies can purchase carbon credits (Goldstandard certified) from the project in order to offset their carbon footprint. The financial revenues from the sale of carbon credits will be reinvested in the project.