Ecuador has a massive task ahead of it. More than 19 million cacao trees are slated for trimming as part of a project by the country’s ministry of agriculture. Some of the old-growth plants have not been pruned in a long time. The cacao fruits that grow close to the trunk are unable to get adequate exposure to light due to thick branches, leaving them vulnerable to rotting. STIHL is supporting small fincas in Ecuador with tools and expertise to help them cut back their trees.
More light for more productivity – the government project
In May 2013, Ecuador’s government launched La gran minga del cacao nacional (www.mingadelcacao.com), a project aimed at trimming old cacao trees throughout the country. The project is spearheaded by the country’s ministry of agriculture and calls for more than 19 million cacao trees on 48,000 hectares of land to be pruned.
Owners of fincas up to a size of 10 hectares can participate in the programme free of charge. The project was launched due to a constant decline in the productivity of small plantations as a result of poor care and maintenance. Targeted trimming allows more light to reach cacao fruits. These fruits grow close to the trunk and often rot because of a lack of sunlight. Cutting back the branches also makes it possible to rid trees of parasites, which tend to settle in the crowns of the trees.
The measures make it easier to reach the fruits that are ripe for harvesting, increasing yield and profitability. STIHL is an exclusive project partner. The focus so far has been on supplying fincas with STIHL HT131 pole pruners. However, chain saws, KombiEngines with pole pruner tools and a few blowers are also in use.
Well trained for constant use
The local STIHL representatives worked with local specialist dealers to train helpers. As a result, 2,100 users and 22 technical supervisors from the consortium in charge of overseeing the project acquired the knowledge they need to use the tools. Three local STIHL technicians are also constantly on location in the cacao-growing regions.
The users are divided up into small groups called brigadas. Most of them consist of five people. Each brigada has four STIHL HT131s and one STIHL MS 250. Some groups also have access to a STIHL KM85R. The tools are in use eight hours a day, six days a week – and they are measuring up to this tough test. More than 9 million trees have already been trimmed. The project is set to continue in 2015.