CIAT’s research areas combine efforts to advance the Cacao for Peace initiative in Colombia

Áreas de investigación del CIAT combinan esfuerzos para adelantar iniciativa Cacao para la Paz en Colombia

Last August, CIAT’s Research Areas in Agroecosystems and Sustainable Landscapes and Agrobiodiversity organized a workshop to discuss and develop a work plan to summarize the instruments, methodologies, activities, and timeline of the project entitled “Geographical Information System Mapping for Optimized Cacao Production in Colombia,” under the Cacao for Peace (CfP) Initiative.

In January of 2016, USAID and USDA executed a 5-year, $5 million agreement for the strengthening of Colombia’s cacao research and extension institutions. The program established by the agreement, referred to as “Cacao for Peace (CfP),” seeks to improve rural well-being in Colombia through agricultural development that is inclusive and sustainable with positive impact on cacao farmers’ incomes, economic opportunity, stability and peace. In order to maximize the impact of program activities, CfP will analyze soil, water and genetic characteristics in the regions it selects for assistance. Initially the program is targeting the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (SNSM) region.

This project is funded by USAID, executed by USDA-FAS, and jointly implemented by CIAT, Penn-State University, and USDA-NRCS. Among the objectives, this project will map suitable areas to grow cacao in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta region, in Colombia. To this effect, researchers will characterize soil physical and chemical properties, including cadmium levels; they will define high-productivity areas and conduct a cacao genetic diversity study that will shed light on the genetic wealth present in nearly 250 farmers’ fields from the area.


We are going to study cadmium in the soil, as it is highly important now, due to the European Union’s new regulation on the level of cadmium in cacao-based products as well as  stablished in the Codex Alimentarius. Also a GIS tool will be developed as a result of this project, in line with all the soil and genetic information we collect, to be available and accessible to all stakeholders in the cacao supply chain.

Mayesse Da Silva

CIAT soil researcher.


A field exploratory visit was conducted in municipalities of the departments of Guajira and Magdalena. This activity was carried out to identify potential entry points for project intervention, engage in dialogue with farmers, and gather baseline information on the local conditions.

The workshop was attended by national institutions, such as AGROSAVIA, UPRA, IGAC, and the offices of the Governors of Atlántico and Magdalena, who provided recommendations to the work plan and sought joint cooperation agreements.

This project from the CfP initiative will contribute to the efforts CIAT is leading in Latin America and the Caribbean regarding productivity and cadmium mitigation in cacao products from the region, using innovative technologies, such as digital soil mapping and genetic characterization of cacao. Similarly, it will contribute to improving cacao productivity in smallholder farms.

The Agroecosystems and Sustainable Landscapes and Agrobiodiversity teams will lead and coordinate the implementation of the work plan for this project in Colombia, and will work closely with Penn-State University and USDA-NRCS in the genetic, water, and soil mapping. The CIAT team will also collect samples in the field, perform laboratory analyses, and contribute with scientific knowledge and recommendations to the project outcomes.

For more information:
Mayesse Da Silva: