Forever Cacao was born following my introduction to raw chocolate and a conversation with Dilwyn Jenkins from Ecotribal who writes the Rough Guide to Peru and has been working with the Ashaninka for around 30 years. Over this time he’s established a supply chain to export the coffee they grow and when asked whether they grew cacao, he said yes…4 years later and it’s time to share this heirloom raw cacao with the rest of the world.
Ecotribal are working closely with Tinkareni and Coveja villages improving fermentation and post-harvest processing of Ashaninka cacao and to link them to a us – a direct, better paying market.
When Dilwyn, first visited the Ashaninka of the Rio Ene in 1978, they already had some established Cacao trees which were just beginning to produce beans. At the time, this was one of the very first cash crops developed by the Ashaninka here. The variety is Criollo, originally introduced from Tingo Maria and gradually shared between communities as an experiment in the 1970′s and early 80′s. Many of these chocolate trees are still producing and some of the Ashaninka are experimenting with local Cacao varieties found wild in the forest, sometimes known as the abuelos (grandfathers). No pesticides or chemical fertilisers are used by the growers and they all follow organic farming practices. Peru is world renowned for it’s quality flavour Cacao and these beans are no exception. It’s taken time to establish this supply chain and the next crop will arrive by Summer 2013.
Two years ago the community of Cutivireni established a Cacao Producers Association. They presently sell collectively to Ecotribal and to a cooperative located 8 hours down river. The Cacao liquor used in the signature bar is sourced via this cooperative whilst we wait for this years crop of beans. The producers’ association separates a percentage of its income to pay for community health and emergency needs.
Ecotribal have partnered with Size of Wales & Cool Earth who both have a unique approach to rainforest protection and have seen forty-four indigenous communities galvanised into shielding 2.5 million acres of pristine rainforest safeguarding ancient Cacao and other crops they rely on.
You could call this viral conservation, with village after village lining up to to protect their forest.
Photograph by Alicia Fox