Camino at Lima’s Cacao and Chocolate Show, Peru

by Tom Hanlon-Wilde

The 10th Annual Salon de Cacao y Chocolate in Lima highlighted the leading role La Siembra farmer partners in Peru are playing in developing organic cocoa farming and chocolate making in South America. Buyers from all over the world and cocoa farmers from throughout South America attended the four-day event to try re-discovered heirloom varieties of cocoa beans and learn about organic farming techniques from the rapidly growing chocolate industry in Peru. The co-operatives of small scale farmers with whom La Siembra works are at the forefront of growing movement that is helping change how people farm, make, and eat chocolate.

Award-Winning Cocoa Beans

Co-op Norandino farmers win 3 of top 5 cocoa quality awards at 2017 Salon de Cacao y Chocolate

The promise of specialty cocoa from hierloom varieties of cocoa is being realized by several farmers in Northern Peru. Small-scale farmers from the area around Tumbes won first prize at the National Cocoa contest, while the growers of La Quemazón in Morropon took third and those of Charanal in Chulucanas took fifth. All growers are owners of long-time Camino partners Norandino Co-operative. “With these results proving the quality of our cocoa beans,” noted Norandino export manager Santiago Paz, “not only does our province of Piura claim a victory, but it is a win for all of Peru, and most of all a victory for small scale farmers.”

Ask a Cocoa Farmer

We asked a few fair trade leaders to send their questions to cocoa producers. This one is from Zack Gross of the Manitoba Council for International Cooperation.

Zack: As you know, I was in Peru visiting Norandino last April, 2016 in the Piura area mostly – It was a great experience. This was an MCIC/Fair Trade Manitoba/CFTN tour led by Sean McHugh & Jennifer Williams. Since then, they have had devastating floods, so my questions would be “How have the floods and other effects of El Nino and climate change affected their work, and what can we do in the North to support their rebuilding and their sustained livelihood growth?”

Maribel Jaramillo, Domestic Sales Manager of Co-op Norandino: The heavy rains and floods greatly complicated the lives of the small-scale farmers of Norandino. Many members lost homes, lost their crops, some lost everything. First, it was food we responded with. The roads were gone, the rivers overflowed, so we packed up baskets of food and took them out to families. Our team waded across rivers, hand carrying a week worth of supplies because there was no other way for folks to eat. Same with medicines, including repellent to help people protect themselves from dengue. Secondly, the topic of reconstruction. We opened up and are operating a supply chain to get farmers the equipment – pipes, tools, construction materials – they need to get the standing water off of their crop land and reconstruct their houses. Our members and neighbors are still restoring their houses.  We haven’t even recovered to the point where members are re-planting – some members will simply have nothing to harvest this year.  It’s worth watching https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0C56EwkHM9o. The donations from our international partners were helpful – we started helping knowing that our friends around the world would be there… and you were. 

Women Farmers Strengthen Co-op Oro Verde

Oro Verde farmers who have participated in leadership training

Over the past two harvests, no single farmer co-operative has provided more cocoa beans for the making of Camino chocolates than Oro Verde. Nestled in the verdant hills of San Martin at the edge of the Amazonian jungle, the Oro Verde Co-op has a rich history and a robust gender equity program. Volunteer Leslie Rosales staffed the booth at the Salon de Cacao and pointed out, “At the moment, the world prices of both coffee and cocoa are so low that they don’t reflect the support women farmers contribute in the supply chain. And how can we even put a value on the effort of mothers to raise a family? “La Siembra’s sister co-operative Equal Exchange is providing support to Oro Verde in programs to help increase yields on cocoa farms, improve quality control, and develop mechanisms for farmers to build equity in the co-op. Oro Verde President Tomás Cordova explained that a successful co-op needs to have continuous education programs, transparent communication, and members who want to succeed.

“Thank You” from El Quinacho

At the Salon de Cacao y Chocolate in Lima, Mr. Luis Santivañez Sanchéz sought us out to express their appreciation for all the buyers of Camino chocolates. Mr. Santivañez currently serves as the President of El Quinacho Co-operative, which is owned by 445 small-scale farming families in southern part of the Apruimac Valley of Ayacucho, Peru. The co-operative ships a major portion of their total production of cocoa beans for use in Camino chocolate bars (and Equal Exchange chocolate bars).  The steady fair trade price and dependable market has allowed their co-op to look toward the future, and now members are working with two solidarity organizations – Root Capital and Shared Interest UK – to develop a system so that members can build equity in their co-operatives as a way to save for the future.