Chocolate without a dark side.
By Jorge Rivas, Senior Manager Forest and Freshwater WWF-Ecuador.
The rich full-bodied taste of chocolate make them a popular sweet treat among young and old. Known for its high antioxidant content, chocolate was considered a gift from gods in ancient Mayan culture and was used as a form of currency. In the present day, chocolate’s popularity hasn’t waned with global cocoa production going up fourfold since 1960. This has been directly at the expense of native forests in West Africa, Indonesia and Latin America.
Over the past year, deforestation has become a hot topic in the cocoa sector. Deforestation has been attributed to corporate disinterest in the environmental effects of their supply of cheap cocoa, and poor governance and management within designated protected areas. However, the demand for cocoa need not fuel any further deforestation if supported by responsible production that protects and restores forests.
Amazon’s Indigenous communities in Cuyabeno heavily depend on cacao production for their livelihoods. WWF supports these communities in the development and improvement of the crops using agroforestry systems which controls soil erosion and reduces water loss and depletion of organic matter and nutrients from the soil. This way, cacao grows under the shadow of native trees, which prevents deforestation and produces a bean with exceptional aroma and flavour.
WWF Ecuador with cooperation from WWF Belgium has been working since 2012 with indigenous communities of the Cuyabeno Reserve on various conservation issues, helping them manage their natural resources and empowering the local organizations. In 2014, we began working with the Kichwa indigenous community of Zancudo Cocha (an area that spans over 172,000 ha), to improve their cocoa production and marketing methodologies. Within this community, 21 families produce high-quality cocoa, whilst incorporating sustainable cocoa production methods within their traditional farming practices.
Since 2018, the project has expanded to support 3 nearby indigenous communities within the Cuyabeno Reserve. Currently, we are working for improvement of the complete value chain with 21 families of the indigenous Cofanes of Zábalo; 36 indigenous Shuar families from Taikiwua and Charap communities.
In order to improve the cocoa supply chain and increase the prices of the cocoa beans by these traditional communities, we established an alliance with a well-known Ecuadorian premium chocolate production company, Pacari in 2018. Pacari is an Ecuadorian Enterprise, who works with 3,500 families of small-scale farmers in Ecuador, through direct commerce. Pacari buys the cocoa beans from these communities, offering the producers a commercial relationship, with fair and on-time payments. Pacari buys the cocoa beans from Zancudo Cocha community and pays an additional 60% of its local average value. In 2019, Pacari and WWF supported the community of Zancudo Cocha to obtain organic certification, which was funded by Pacari.
WWF and Pacari share similar principles and values and are working for an Ecuador that is sustainable both for its people and its biodiversity. All the while, producing some of the world’s finest chocolate and chocolate products, with a unique aroma and flavours.