Meet Cooperativa Agraria Cacaotera Choba Choba

Based in the Alto Huayabamba Valley of Peru, Cooperativa Agraria Cacaotera Choba Choba has a unique & powerful story of transition to a better life through Conscious Trade. Yellow Seed is delighted to partner with Co-op ACCC to facilitate a shipment of an exclusive blend from this origin.

Respect, equality, solidarity — these are the values of the Cooperativa Agraria Cacaotera Choba Choba (Co-op ACCC) in Peru. At Co-op ACCC cacao farmers set their own price, are actively engaged with developing their business, and want closer relationships with their buyers and end consumers. Their quest for community resilience, self-improvement, and local entrepreneurship is palpable. They believe “equity lives in true partnership” which is what makes them perfect collaborators for Yellow Seed’s new pilot project. Yellow Seed is working with Origin X Change, PBC as a service provider to facilitate the purchase. The pilot will support Co-op ACCC’s goal of expanding their agroforestry system, preserving biodiversity, ensuring food security, and increasing resilience to climate change.

Co-op ACCC lies in the Alto Huayabamba Valley in the heart of the upper Amazon, the birthplace of cacao itself. Its rich ecosystem is part of UNESCO’s Biosphere Reserve “Gran Pajatén” — the home of abundant flora and fauna including a diversity of birds, mammals, and fish, as well as some very unique cacao varieties. The farmers “coexist with nature” and practice agroforestry simply because they want to conserve the incredible forest around them.

“To produce cacao that is high quality and grown in a truly sustainable way,” is the mission of Co-op ACCC. They desire to be examples for all the producers of the Peruvian Amazon and the rest of the world. The 36 Co-op ACCC farming families are committed to doing the best they can, to have a voice in the industry, and change the lives of their children so they can have better education, better houses, and access to quality healthcare.

“My farm is special because it has changed my life and I can educate my kids legally and this makes me happy.” ―Oswaldo from Juanjui, Cooperative President

The cooperative has a strong history of community organization driven by the need to work together to overcome difficult times. Originally, the farmers in the region cultivated platanos (plantain), corn, and beans. In the 1980’s until the mid 1990’s, they were swept up in the lure of coca farming, a traditional plant used as a stimulant — like coffee. The coca plant is also used to make cocaine, and so although the profits were good from this crop, the community suffered. Jhonatan Acosta, the Project Coordinator at Co-op ACCC explains that “Along with coca farming came a lot of violence from narcotics traffic and terrorism. In the late 1990’s when the Peruvian government had an economic downturn, the producers ended up in extreme poverty.”

A few years later, a project was started between the Peruvian governmental agency DEVIDA and USAID to replace coca with a robust hybrid varietal called CCN, as a strategy for peace and economic recovery. The hybrid was a beloved workhorse because it was three times more productive, resilient to disease, and could grow in many different environments.

After 20 years of flavor development, Co-op ACCC has learned how to excellently ferment this bean and grows it in the forest next to citrus and other crops. Thus, you can taste these flavors in the bean. Chocolate makers are surprised and impressed by the flavor quality of the beans, not expecting such good flavors from a CCN variety. One maker described the flavor as “fruity and astringent with a black tea finish.”

The cooperative also develops and sells some of their native varietals and plans to slowly replace the CCN with those strains which produce great quality beans. They estimate to have identified approximately 50 different native varietals within the biosphere reserve.

One exciting and exclusive varietal being developed at Co-op ACCC is known as CYP or Coleccion Yoplac Pucalpillo. Founded in 1999, the special varietal was developed by Jorge Yoplas Tuanama, the President of Co-op ACCC, by mixing the native cacao species of the forest with the project varieties at the origin. Jorge spent 19 years grafting, experimenting, and cross pollinating to get the flavor and results we can enjoy today. “We ended up with a bean that is very soft and sweet with little acidity. You can taste coconuts, banana, and other mild fruits,” says Jorge.

Left: Jorge Yoplas Tuanama, the President of Co-op ACCC and developer of the CYP varietal

For the people there, cacao has changed their lives in a big way. According to Jorge, “If you were to compare life between now and 15 years ago, there would be a lot of differences. 15 years ago was when we started to plant cacao. We had nothing, the violence was ending, and after that we began to see the change.” He notes that “the price producers are paid for their beans motivates them to be better with respect to good practices and bettering our quality of life.”

Jhonatan Acosta, the Project Coordinator at Co-op ACCC, says “In the area there are a lot of cooperatives, but Co-op ACCC’s is different. The producers value and respect nature a lot, we coexist with nature. There is a lot of participation, equality, and transparency. There is also equality with gender. Co-op ACCC has so many different projects to help the farmers.”

Right: Jhonatan Acosta, Project Coordinator at Co-op ACCC
“Our vision for the future is for the producer to be truly valued as the main bond in the supply chain.” ―Jhonatan Acosta, Project Coordinator at Co-op ACCC

It has been a fascinating journey for Co-op ACCC, and the farming families have come a long way — from a history of extreme poverty and violence, to becoming entrepreneurs and catalysts for a new generation of cacao producers.