LA PAZ, BOLIVIA
A REGION KNOWN AS ALTO BENI
This cacao grows in the lowlands of La Paz, Bolivia - a region known as Alto Beni. Nelson and Jorge Valverde, brothers from Bolivia, started the Alto Beni Cacao Company in 2010 to help develop the cacao industry in the region and as a result improve the economic opportunities. The company pays premium prices to farmers and collects, centrally ferments, and dries beans to ensure high quality, consistent cacao. All the beans come from small-scale farmers in rural areas who depend on cacao as a main source of income.
GUATUSO, COSTA RICA
Edwin Sibaja lives with his family on a small plot of land in Guatuso, the town on the outskirts of Upala. Edwin has many years of agricultural experience. He operates a carefully managed family cacao plantation and implements sustainable agricultural practices.
He is an astute learner and is always seeking out ways to improve his cacao production. He is also a respected community leader and is often found on his neighbors’ plantations helping share cacao producing best practices.
Edwin represents those cacao producers that successfully implement sustainable growing practices as well as proper cropping and nutrition, in accordance with the Nahua Cacao Renovation Program. Tending a well-managed plantation with an appropriate balance of nutrients, Edwin now requires assistance to improve the quality of the varieties of his cacao trees.
As a member of Nahua’s producer network, Edwin will benefit from the company’s greenhouse and access to high-quality cacao varieties. Technical assistants also work with Edwin to ensure he has the tools necessary to manage his own cacao tree nursery.
Edwin remains committed to Nahua’s mission in the region, to reinvigorate cacao production throughout the region by aiding producers in bolstering their productivity and improving the quality of their product.
BOSQUES DE CACAO YARIGUIES
REGION: EL CARMEN DE CHUCURI, SANTANDER, COLOMBIA, IN THE COLOMBIAN ANDES
“Yariguies” the Indians (Yarigui) that lived here in the past are one of the only tribes that never surrendered to the Spanish empire and the last Indian died around 1930.
In the1940's when my grandparents arrived from 2 different towns to this area, there were only mountains. In the 60's there were already many farmers living here, people that colonized this land like my grandparents. In 70's many farmers, including my parents started to harvest cacao.
I was born in 1982 and grew up on my parents’ farm (without electricity and in the middle of the war between "paramilitary" and "guerrilla" that finally ended in 1995). I harvested cacao until I was 17 years old. After that I finished university studies as a chemical engineer in 2007. In 2005 the government did a declaration of a park in this area, the "Parque Natural Nacional Serrania de los Yariguies", with an area of 60,000 hectares, and the main area belonging to my town (El Carmen de Chucuri).
In 2013 I started a project (Bosques de Cacao Yariguies) looking to save our heritage, prevent young farmers from moving to the cities due to lack of opportunity in rural areas, and to protect the environment. With this in mind, we started the challenge of find fair trade chocolate makers. The first years of our project we committed to learning about high quality cacao and their varieties, proper fermentation, proper drying, and proper cacao pod choice.
Now we are developing a tourism project around agroturismo, nature and cacao, where we teach the things we had been learning around high quality cacao and fine chocolates. While we strengthen the cocoa tradition and show young people that it is possible to change things, we will be linking other farmers with chocolate lovers too.
SAN MARTIN REGION, PERU
Cooperativa Agraria Norandino Ltda (Norandino) is a cooperative active in the processing, commercialization and export of coffee, cocoa and panela. Norandino took over the activities of an earlier cooperative, CEPICAFE, on 1 January 2013. Norandino operates in several departments across Peru. The organization brings together more than 7,000 families in the northern macro region of Peru, where Tumbes, Amazonas, San Martin regions are included, Cajamarca and Piura.
It assists its members, small-scale agricultural producers, in all stages of the production process. By way of example, for the earlier stages it offers loans in kind, (fertilizer for instance).For the harvest stage, it offers loans as advances to enable the farmers to carry out harvesting activities. It has a large processing facility in Piura, which it uses to process its members' coffee, but which it also offers to many other organizations for their use.
Very importantly, it assists its members with marketing, helping them with various certification schemes, so that they can access the organic, fair trade, specialty and sustainable international markets. It also offers training, and has held an 'alternative tourism' project in the small town of Montero as a means of responsible tourism, with producers and other local people acting as guides. This model of tourism supports social projects, such as women's weaving associations, and ecological projects such as reforestation.
RANCHO GRANDE, NICARAGUA
After spending months developing relationships with communities and familiarizing ourselves with each other’s resources and dreams, ENLIVEN finally narrowed their focus to Rancho Grande Nicaragua, a town 2 hours into the mountains outside Matagalpa. Coffee is the primary crop grown in this region, but the majority of large scale coffee farmers in Rancho Grande grow cacao trees on their land as a secondary crop. Although their land is ideal for growing Cacao and the crop is significant it is largely undervalued. As soon as we entered their community we began talking to the people about their livelihoods as well as inquiring about their ties to cacao. Many conversations led us to connect with several farmers that are considered experts in growing cacao; a family trade for many generations. These farmers are truly the pillars in their communities and loyally support the people around them.
Although experts in growing cacao, the farmers generally have very little experience in the products that are produced from the raw cacao plant. Many of the farmers have never tasted chocolate. Due to this lack of knowledge the farmers believe little value can be obtained from cacao. Enliven is working with these farmers to develop an understanding of the value chain of their crop which will help determine where in the process we should engage our stateside business partners. The novice eye would see these Nicaraguan farmers as poor, but when one truly knows the farmer it’s clear that they are very rich. Rich in ideas and experience, they truly have a skill-set that is unrivaled and a passion for the land that is genuine. A combination of their ingenuity with the enliven toolbox are their ingredients for success.
DUARTE PROVINCE, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
Nestled in the heart of the cacao rich Duarte province in the Dominican Republic, Öko-Caribe (or “eco-Caribe,” in German) is a gem amongst cacao suppliers. With more than 50 years of combined experience in cacao, owners Adriano de Jesus Rodriguez and Gualberto Acebey Torrejon have fine-tuned their systems to ensure consistent, superior quality in their 500+ tons of annual production. Öko Caribe maintains close relationships with its 165 farmers through technical training, in agronomic practices and organic certification. In addition, owners Adriano and Gualberto have personal relationships with all farmers, offering microfinance loans for cacao-related expenses, as well as personal loans for family emergencies or other community needs. The loyalty between Öko Caribe and the farmers they work with is not only evidenced in daily interactions between staff, management and farmers, but also in their best-in-class, award winning final product.