Thippakone Thammavongsa / WWF-Laos
15 september 2021

WWF DFCD supports Heifer International in building the Green Business Belt in Central America 

The Green Business Belt (GBB) programme aims to transform the lives of coffee, cocoa and spice farmers and their communities, while protecting tropical forests and restoring degraded land in Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.

The World Wide Fund for Nature Netherlands has approved a first €40K grant to Heifer International, a NGO that supports farmers and their communities in 21 countries, to support the organisation in fine-tuning the project design and business plan for the period until 2025.   

The first phase of the GBB programme covers 6,250 poor small-scale spice farmers in five communities of Alta Verapaz in northern Guatemala where more than 80% of the population lives below the poverty line. Many of the families rely on single-crop farming and the prices they can get for their spices such as cardamom can be rather volatile.  

WWF-Brazil / Zig Koch
Annattos from the Amazonas

While there have been some efforts to establish sustainable coffee, cocoa and spices value chains through organisations such as the Rainforest Alliance and IDH, these efforts have not focused on post-harvest processing, but rather on cultivation and harvesting techniques, according to Heifer International.  

As such, these certifications do not address the primary drivers of deforestation – most notably – the curing process. Farmers chop many trees to fuel the drying process of the spices. This amounts to 4,000 acres (around 16 square kilometers) for any of the spices they are farming. Deforestation in Central America is a serious issue. In Guatemala alone, nearly half of the forest disappeared in the last fifty years.  

Luchtfoto van ontbossing in het Amazone-regenwoud in Brazilië Greg Armfield / WWF-UK

Further, these nascent certification programs are not linked to financial mechanisms. Smallholder farmers remain unable to upgrade technologies and link to sustainable markets. 

 “The Green Belt Program is a bold approach for a challenging problem. Family farmers in Central America are one of the most vulnerable populations to climate change in Latin America,” says Fabricio de Campos, DFCD regional lead for Latin America. 

“Implementation of agroforestry systems on their lands not only mitigate the impact of these changes on the crops but also diversify and increase their yields, minimizing the exposure that the farmer has when growing a single crop.”

Dry Corridor of Central America

Together with El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua, it forms the so-called Dry Corridor because large areas in these countries are severely affected by climate change. In the past five years erratic weather patterns like prolonged dry spells and excessive rains have devastated maize and bean crops in the Dry Corridor of Central America.  

There is a 60% to 80% chance that extreme weather events will hit the next harvest season, according to the UN World Food Programme. Between 2010-2015 emigration from Dry Corridor countries increased five times and nearly one third of them cited the extreme weather conditions as the reason for leaving. 

Green Business Belt platform 

The GBB builds on Heifer's current partnership and programs in Central America which include McCormick in Guatemala, the largest spice company in the world, ECOM and OLAM commodity trading companies in Honduras and Nicaragua (coffee, cocoa and spices), producer coops, and other local stakeholders.  

This platform uses a market-based system to generate incentives to ensure sustainable post-harvest production of coffee, cacao and spices in order to overcome the lack of an effective regulatory framework.  


Programme activities 

The GBB project focuses on implementing a combination of activities, to begin with the introduction of sustainable farming and production methods and shifting spice farmers from single-crop to multi-crop farming with the following spices: cardamom, allspice, black pepper, annatto (the orange-red seeds of the achiote tree), clove and cinnamon. In the other project countries the crops can also include coffee and cacao. 

Michel Gunther / WWF

At the same time, it will implement various agroforestry models including safeguarding safe habitat zones managed by the communities. The farming families will get support in growing the right seedlings provided by municipal nurseries. More efficient dryers should reduce the consumption of wood.  

The chosen region Alta Verapaz possesses the greatest potential to develop high value agroforestry products and agroforestry-related services such as input and equipment suppliers, post-harvest production (drying and processing), information and education services, maintenance, storage and transportation and the like. But also financial services to give farmers access to credit to finance the necessary investments to make their farm more sustainable and profitable. Heifer Impact Capital will create a guarantee financing mechanism to help finance the investments in new equipment and technology.  

The programme’s goal is to create and/or strengthen ten inclusive green enterprises within the spice value chains and 25 youth-led entrepreneurial businesses within the rural community tourism sector related to the spice farming. At least 50% of the newly created jobs should be filled by women and youth.  

The project will promote producers associations that will receive business support to strengthen their operational and financial management as well as the commercialisation and marketing of their products. The project wants to establish sustainable standards for the different crops, to begin with coffee, cacao and cardamom. Creating premium products and better linkages with local and international markets allows farmers to fetch better prices for their produce. With the help of the programme, each farmer and his family should be able to earn a living income.  

This short video summarizes the objectives and activities of the first phase of the GBB programme. 

Bovenaanzicht van de Kapuas-rivier in Borneo Jonne Seijdel / WWF-Netherlands

About DFCD

The DFCD enables private sector investment in projects aimed at climate adaptation and mitigation in developing countries. The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs has made available € 160 million to increase the resilience of communities and ecosystems most vulnerable to climate change. The DFCD is managed by a pioneering consortium of Climate Fund Managers (CFM), Worldwide Fund for Nature Netherlands (WWF-NL) and SNV, led by the Dutch Entrepreneurial Development Bank, FMO. 

Read more about DFCD