What changes is what passes, a path, a journey

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of Arajuno Road Project.

What changes is what passes, a path, a journey

Whoever won the most in this experience was me. However, I think that in all the people I live with, I left some of myself and took some of them … I can say that I am more fulfilled, given the contact I had with various people, especially the contact I had with what there are the most beautiful in the world – children. As each of us is a bit of a lot of people and a set of external influences, now I have a greater diversity in me.

 

My volunteerism was focused on agriculture, but in reality, it was much more diverse. I tried to foster a taste for nature and agriculture with the children of the community I dealt with daily, with the nearest school where I gave mini-classes about nutrition, nature and agriculture, and in a more distant community, already inside the jungle, and where, although we are teaching English, we always try to include values of respect for nature and for others. I received and gave workshops about nutrition and cooking, had meetings and did work that helped me understand a little more about the world we live in and the past that created and conditions this present.

Essentially, I have tried to leave in children the seed for the love of nature and respect for their animals. In these fast five months I noticed changes in some children, the younger ones … when I arrived, they killed or mistreated all the insects and certain animals they encountered and when I asked them why they did, they said they did not like them. Now, at the end of this time, I see them caressing the dogs and not destroying the ants’ buildings, just watching curiously their paths and houses.

Even if the help I have given has been minimal, I think that the simple fact that there is an interaction between people from different cultures is positive because it removes prejudices and increases acceptance of differences. The coexistence of different cultures or realities, frees the mentalities, making them more tolerant.

The contact with different realities always helps the inner growth and self-knowledge, because when the perspective is changed, some “frosts” disappear, being possible a different observation and consequent interpretation.

On the other hand, we might consider negative, for example, to allow these children to become attached to us and then to leave everything, not to have a commitment to them for the rest of their lives … However, this is the reality that always goes occur in the lives of all of us because everything is ephemeral, everything in our life comes and goes, is born and dies. So is the cycle of life, to have begun there must be an end, to have the life there must be death, to have good there must be evil. So it is, and the better we accept this fact, better we can live this life that is an instant, where there is only the ephemeral.

At the beginning of this experience I was very happy to arrive here, now I’m happy to leave … the whole departure is also an arrival to another destination. Now I will continue my journey a little more complete and happy, and I will continue looking for my way, in this eternal search that is life.

My next ways will be for other worlds. However, I will make them tempted not to forget something I learned: no matter how little we can do, we should never stop doing it because we think this is little … “Life is made of little nothings”!

Experiences that change you

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of Arajuno Road Project.

Experiences that change you

 

Those experiences that revolt you, make your beliefs collapse and open your mind, heart, doors.

Only the idea gives you fear and excitement at the same time, and you know that it is one of just to try. As those worthy, it seems that time has flown but on the other hand I have the feeling of being here for much more than five months. Must say that before leaving I did not have so many expectations, I wanted to let me surprise. And so it was, in an ascending climax of emotions and lessons of life.

In the last period I had English classes with children and adults and together we organized a final presentation, I was dealing with the library and I held art workshops where the kids had fun with tempers and easels.

We also held courses in a kichwa community, where they offered us maito and chicha and they were very hospitable; the night in the hammock in their hut is one of the most lively memories I have.

During the absence of my colleague in charge of eco-agriculture tasks, I took care of the garden. One of the youngest kids in the center was enthusiastic about the idea and every morning he was waiting for me to water the plants, carrying his bucket full of water, with bare feet on the humid and warm ground.

Contact with nature and its rhythms and transformations, the rite of taking care and respect of times have been fundamental to my growth. I’ve been thinking a lot about time for things to be picked up, to be ready.

During this time we also met with a kind lady who showed us typical recipes that we prepared together. In addition to having really delicious dishes, cooking is one of the best ways to get in touch with a culture, create bonds and knowledge.

There are plenty of anecdotes: my fall in the river while rafting and consequent heroic rescue, the epic race after the presence of a snake a few inches from my feet, the rise of a volcano with snow in my face and anemia.I have experienced as many sad moments as many full of so much joy. I bring so much in and with me. I trained assertiveness, critical thinking, organization and time management, socio-cultural awareness.

I have deeply understood the value of recycling, the figured one I mean, of beauty of imperfection, as “there’s a crack in everything but it’s where light comes in”, someone would say.

I have I learned so much. Gradually demolishing the wall of defenses, relying and resizing, putting limits, trusting my intuition, the change of perspective, the value of time and building something.

I have learned to rest, to be less impatient and that waiting is maturation.

I learned the courage to know how to stay, to accommodate my limits and my shadows, not fleeing for places to “divert”.

I have learned the importance of the care of myself, of things, of others, to let it flow, let it go, which implies incorporating an experience, making space and being ready for a new one.

I’m learning to forgive myself. I have become more and more conscious of the lifetime-death-rebirth cycle, which is the rule of the world.

I knew myself better and let me be inspired. I imagined a lot. I think the images are underrated, they have a significant power of chance. They are connected with desires and inspiration from deep desires, by etymology, means that we are ready to bridge the distance between us and the stars. I had new images for my life. I feel stimulated, comforted, encouraged and I leave myself actively transported.

Now I am writing it is the last day I spend here and I have so many memories. I have met people who struggle in everyday life. I have seen the children growing, moving the first steps, learning new words. I witnessed the change of teenagers, after we created familiarity. We accompanied each other for a short time. Emotion takes me to the thought of their lack.

It was an intense experience. Those beautiful things that makes you feel good. And some might even say, “Did you need to go to Ecuador to understand that?” Maybe no, maybe yes. Or probably yes, for my particular and specific life path, I needed this country, these people, just this. I bring everything away with me, as it is said, into the baggage of the soul. I conclude with a thought that I had collected one of the first days.

“Later in the afternoon I was playing football with the kids in the big square in front of the dorm. They laughed, all sweaty and happy. Dogs and hens walking around, the neighbor washing their clothes in the well, in the background cumbia and parrots. The sun was falling and the trees were shining with a bright green light. There was such a beautiful light I thought I would run in to take my camera to make that postcard immortal. But it was a fleeting thought since I was totally in, and interrupting that moment would have changed its energy. It was perfect.”

EVS in the country of the four worlds, Ecuador

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of Arajuno Road Project.

EVS in the country of the four worlds, Ecuador

The country:

Located in the middle of the world, in Ecuador we can take a step from the southern hemisphere to the northern hemisphere. It is possible in one day to walk along the beautiful Pacific coast, the imposing Andes mountain range and the secret Amazon rainforest. In the middle of the Pacific Ocean are the splendid Galapagos Islands, with its incredible marine and terrestrial heritage.

Ecuador has the largest diversity of animals and plants per square kilometer of the world, and it is possible in this small country to visit several ecosystems of the planet.

Their fruits: 

With all this biological wealth, there could only be a spectacular variety of fruit like this. Exotic fruits such as Granadilla – of soft taste and strange sticky texture, and Pitahaya – too good, but unfortunately also with too much laxative effect.

When talking about Ecuadorian fruits, I could not fail to mention bananas, especially Verde, probably the main food in this region. Here, the bananas are eaten green or ripe, cooked or raw. There are bananas of all sizes and shapes – even red-colored bananas, made in 1001 ways. And all are delicious.

As for the vegetables, I could not fail to mention the Yuca, which is used in several traditional dishes and makes a wonderful bread, which was a treat with which we were welcomed on our arrival in Puyo. All these products, in their diversity, have magnificent colors and odors, which makes local markets very good to visit.

One month for the various regions of the country:

In my first month of living in Ecuador, I had the opportunity to get to know a little of the three main regions – the coast, the mountains and the east. I also knew a little of its people, who are everywhere friendly, hospitable and humble.

The Coast:

On the coast, one feels a more festive and relaxed atmosphere. The population is more liberal and vibrant.

I went down the coast from Esmeralda to Montañita in comical buses that vary between reggeaton music – yes, reggeaton is the most heard in this country – and violent films about fighting. This part – the reggeaton and violent films – is the same in all the areas of the country, however in the coast, the volume is higher. I dived into the warm waters of the beautiful and alternative beach of Mompiche, and savored their fish and fruit. I met quiet and pleasant fishing villages such as Puerto Lopéz, which is also the gateway to Machalilla National Park, which protects 50km of beaches – among them the beautiful beach of Los Frailes – and 40,000 hectares of forest.

The mountains:

I crossed the mythical Andes mountain range, where volcanoes rise more than five thousand meters high with perpetual snow. I descended to the Lagoon of Quilotoa, a magical place where a lagoon forms inside the crater of an extinct volcano, at almost 4000 meters of altitude. I verified something curious I was told that it always rains at 12:00 a.m.

Along the mountain range I saw amazing valleys and picturesque settlements. The population of the mountain range is more picturesque, all in their characteristic costumes, and convey a quiet, almost mystical deep that blends in with a landscape.

Here, in addition to reggingaton always present throughout the country, you can also hear the characteristic Andean pan flute. There are three types of pan flute, siku, antara and rondador. It is believed that the rondador pan flute originated in Ecuador and southern Colombia.

The East:

I walked along trails in the east, where the Amazon rainforest is located. In Mera, I dived into the cold waters of the Tigre River and admired the power of the Pastaza River, which with its course forms the border between the province of Pastaza and the province of Morona Santiago.

I was struck by the beauty of the Laguna Azul in Tena, which in reality corresponds to a series of natural pools formed by a tributary of the Jatunyacu River and surrounded by forest.

I have seen and heard beautiful exotic animals, such as the Red Macaw, the Green Snake and the Tarantula. I have known a little about the people and the natural medicine of this region.

And it is here in the East that I am doing my European Volunteer Service (EVS). Here, in the mysterious Amazon region, more specifically in Puyo.

Puyo is the main city in the province of Pastaza. This is the largest province in the country, but it is also the least populated. However, it is extremely culturally diverse. Only in this province, in Pastanza, are present seven indigenous nationalities, which are: Achuar, Andoa, Shuar, Kichwa, Shiwiar, Waorani and Zapara.

An indigenous nationality refers to an age-old communities and previous to the State of Ecuador, each with its own language and culture. It is also relevant to mention the existence of communities without contact with the national society.

Although the official language of this country is Spanish, more specifically Castilian, there is a percentage of the population that does not speak this language. There are many children in school who have difficulties with Castilian and who are ashamed of their language and indigenous origin, as there is a lot of discrimination and association of indigenous peoples with poverty and delinquency. On the other hand, there are people and movements working for the recovery and conservation of these identities.

One month of EVS:

Besides being culturally diverse, this region is also very biologically diverse. Everything here has life. Biological processes occur more quickly due to the high temperatures and high humidity in the air … here “life transpires”! My volunteer project is associated with organic farming. It is very interesting work with the soil in a place where there is so much life. Plants grow faster, just like pests.

It is curious see a tarantula walking the football pitch, and no one to worry about it because, contrary to what I thought, it is not such a dangerous animal because its poison does not kill, it is only painful. It is very pleasant to wake up to the sound of a blue Macaw lodged in a cable of electricity in front of my room.

I’m living in a rural community. Neighbors, children and dogs have a hard life here. Children live in a free way and are, therefore, more independent … dogs beg for food with their bones coming out through the skin. The province of Pastaza is the poorest of all Ecuadorian provinces. People live in a very simple way and they seem to be happy with that.

I spend most of my days here in the La Libertad community. The children go to school in the morning and come back for lunch, anxiously waiting for my fellow volunteers to open the library. I’m sometimes in the library planning things, other times I’m in the greenhouse working on agriculture and, especially in the last few days, working with the compost that is being made here for the first time. This compost will be used to fertilize the soil of the greenhouse, and this help produce food for the community.

One of the goals of this project is to encourage the community to produce their food, and to produce it in a healthy way for them and the environment. It aims to promote environmental sustainability and self-sufficiency, in order to alleviate the local poverty.

Sometimes, in these my farming jobs, I have the cheerful help of the children. On Tuesday we have the Minga, which is a community work that tries to involve the neighboring communities in this project. During three weeks, in Minga, an interesting workshop was held with a professional in permaculture, who helped us and guided us immensely in this hard work of agriculture in such an intense climate.

On Mondays we have had the presence of some dear Ecuadorian ladies who have teach us how to cook traditional Ecuadorian dishes, with my favorites being Bolones de Verde and Seco de Pollo.

The experience:

For me, this experience has been a journey … travel through different and beautiful places and people, and more than that, it has been a Time travel. I have the impression that there are some resemblances between the present reality here and the reality of my country 50 years ago.

Etymologically, travel English derives from the French travail, which in turn originates in the Latin term tripalium, which designates an instrument of torture. To travel is to go to the unknown and, in this way, “lose innocence”, lose our comfort and our references.

The journey forces us to assume the discomfort, the loneliness and to interrupt the life to which we are accustomed in a certain place. To travel is essentially to discover, to discover ourselves and the reflection of our life in the stages of the journey, as well as discover the other without the comfort of the references that are immediate to us. It is not only important what is seen, but how it is seen and the process of mental transformation that occurs and transforms us.

Written By: Luisa, our volunteer

EVS IN A RURAL COMMUNITY AT THE ENTRANCE OF THE ECUATORIAN AMAZONIA

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of Arajuno Road Project.

EVS IN A RURAL COMMUNITY

Here I am, trying to bottle the big wave of facts and emotions overwhelming me during this first month. Everything happened very fast, my graduation in foreign languages, the openness to new. I want to get to know me, to recognize me, to get to know the world, to explore, to share.

I am one of those “multipotentialite” people, fond of many things among which I can’t choose, or probably I just don’t want to, because maybe the solution is to embrace and combine them all, in order to reach the fulfillment as a human being.

The project I have joined mixes all the things I like: travelling, dicovering new cultures, teaching, children, nature, photography. And South America, calling me out loud.

I arrived in Ecuador on May 1st  and I am staying here until September 30th ,taking part to an EVS in a larger project of Global Recognition, with Erasmus+.

The association Arajuno Road Project (http://arajunoroadproject.org/), for which I volunteer, deals with eco-sustainability and education in the Oriente province of Pastaza, realm of indigenous communities and biodiversity to safeguard. I am in charge of the non formal education and the community center; Ana Luisa, from Portugal, of the part of eco-agriculture. We met in Quito and we got together to the destination, where our general coordinator Indre, from Lithuania, was waiting for us.

 We live together and work in a rural community located half-hour far from El Puyo, state capital of the province. The name means “cloudy” in Kichwa. Heavy tropical rains fall every single day, but the weather changes very fast. Inhabitants never use umbrellas, except for the strong sun.

In front of our dormitory, decorated with bamboo stalks and paintings, there is a big open space with football goals, sometimes used as clothes dryers.

Kitchen and bathroom are some metres away from the bedrooms. Our neighbours are kind and smiling; chickens, ducks and cats walk in freedom. There are also a pig and some dogs, in quite degrading conditions: sometimes we feed them, tempted by their gazes.

The sun goes down at 6 pm and rises twelve hours later, when the rooster starts to sing. This is how we wake up every morning. It is so true when you stay in nature, your biorythm gets balanced.
So far we have had close encounters with colorful bugs, frogs, tarantulas… Let’s just hope we’ll never have some with snakes or pumas.

We often go to Puyo to go shopping, do the laundry or simply have a change of scenery, since our place is very isolated. At first glance I was curious about the numerous people selling morocho and grilled bananas  in the streets, loud music coming out of the shops, old women selling vegetables sitting in the corners of the sidewalks, the absence of bus stops and the consequent running after the means of transport.

 

During the first week we went sightseeing the city. We visited the etnobotanical garden Omaere, where we were told about some of the seven indigenous nationalities living in the province and where a boy from Achuar community showed us native medicinal plants and painted my face with a fruit; we went shopping in the colorful central market, full of many types of fruit and roots I still have to learn to distinguish, such as granadilla, guayaba, guanaba, pitaya, yucca, guayusa and a lot of kinds of bananas; we also went to the “Escobar”, the café-restaurant promoting the local products, where we tasted artisan beers. Near Paseo Turistico and Barrio Obrero we ate the ceviche volquetero, the traditional dish of the city.

Other typical dishes I have known are the maito, fish or meat wrapped in a grilled banana leaf, and some variations of  theplatano, like bolones rellenos de queso and chifles.

Differences are detectable. Here there isn’t the culture of the value of time and everything happens according to the placid rythms of the South. This lets you train your patience and adaptability, but also notice the calm in every gesture and savor everything with all your senses, appreciate life unhurriedly.

I chose this chance also to further experience challenges. Staying away from home and everything dear to me, testing myself in a new job, living the basic needs without the ease I am used to. Life conditions (and hygienic) are pretty tough, but I am sure not despite, but thanks to this, I will be able to discern new perspectives and cues.

Accidents don’t delay. Once left, my backpack wasn’t sent so I haven’t had it for more than a week, the means of transport are often full so I have travelled standing for big distances.

Life doesn’t follow prearranged plans and living such intense experiences, where everything is condensed and similarly dilated, time and emotions, forces you to look at the situation from another point of view; enthusiasm is so strong you can’t do anything but living the moment, without worrying for the future or neither regretting the past; that is pretty close to the concept of happiness, I believe.

I am seeing amazing places, where eagles fly high. Mountains, waterfalls, volcanos. Some places are uncontaminated, open, calm. At night, if you look up you can feel mesmerized by the starry sky, from which you can distinguish the shapes of the huge trees.

In this harmonious environment I am carrying out tasks I am passionate about. I give English lessons and I take care of the library in the community center; while I was watching a football match in the school, the director and the teachers noticed my attitude with children, so I take care of the classes, too. I am helping the students with the preparation of their exams and the children with a dance show.

The project is open to proposals and this gives me the opportunity to let ideas and flairs run wild.

Once a week there is the minga, the communitary work. Everybody takes part in it, helping in the vegetable garden or hoeing the ground to set the compost. We also attended an interesting permaculture workshop. It is restoring to be in contact with a culture who believes in the vital importance of taking care of the Pacha Mama, the Mother Earth.

Neighbours are nice and discreet, although we don’t interact very much. On my arrival, I was welcomed by looks of suspicion mixed with curiosity. However the children, so marvelously spontaneous, threw towards me, without any barriers. After few ball games, we became friends.

When I left, I wondered about the question of the sort of continuation of colonialism in international volunteering projects, which concerns me much. We are analysing the theme with the education coordinator, by talking about integration, globalization, identity.

I overcame my comfort zone and I am happy. I want my life to be useful, I don’t want to be a victim of the world, but an active and authentic subject. I am learning very much and I feel so curious to know what I can give and receive. Life is sharing.

Article and pictures by Giulia Baldini

Celebrate 10 Years With Us!

The Arajuno Road Project (ARP)/Proyecto Ruta del Arajuno reaches a momentous milestone in our mission to support healthy communities and a healthy natural environment in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Keep reading to learn 10 reasons to honor this accomplishment and help ARP enter the next decade on firm footing. We hope you enjoy, share and give. The suggested donation is a 1 year (12-month) recurring donation of $10 per month – you can make a big impact at ARP without making a big impact on your pocketbook. The first $800 given will be matched!

 

 Reason 1: We Meet Needs

We work in a region that is home to unparalleled biodiversity and a cultural diversity that includes 7 of Ecuador’s 14 indigenous nationalities. Despite this richness, our region has some of the highest poverty and extreme poverty rates in Ecuador. ARP helps underserved and insecure people where little to no other opportunities are available.

To Donate, Click HERE

 

Reason 2: We Support Schools

We have worked continuously these 10 years supporting rural, underserved schools. This has included English instruction, but also bringing unique learning experiences to children through special events, clubs, and field trips. Creating a healthy learning environment, past support has made possible many school infrastructure improvements, such as places to wash their hands, flushing toilets, and roof repair.

To Donate, Click HERE

 

Reason 3: We Promote Food Security

Many children are facing food insecurity and depend on the schools for a significant part of their diet. In response, ARP has supported school and community gardens for many years with a focus on garden to table production for nutritional school lunches and family consumption. This work has included agricultural clubs for children, technical support for adults, and provided materials, such as seeds and supplies for organic production.

To Donate, Click HERE


Reason 4: We Promote Cultural Understanding

Intercultural understanding and exchange are implicit in our work. Volunteers expand their understanding of Ecuador and help make human connections between cultures. Classrooms participate in international cultural exchanges via correspondence and video calls sharing foods, music, dance and other cultural practices.

We presently are running an unprecedented exchange that has allowed two young Ecuadorians from our region to serve abroad in Europe, as well as receive two European volunteers. An Ecuadorian volunteer serving abroad said, “Actively participating in these activities have helped me further develop my abilities and adapt to different work environments, different people, cultures and language.”

To Donate, Click HERE

Reason 5: We Support Water Security

Life in the rainforest has its challenges, and one of the biggest is water security. With a huge quantity of rainfall, water quality is a leading concern in partner communities. In response, ARP has integrated educational activities on water security and conducted pilots of filtration systems to guide future work.

To Donate, Click HERE

Reason 6: We Support Forest Conservation

Forest conservation in the Amazon impacts us all. For example, one hectare in our region can contain up to as many plant, insect, and other species as the entire North American continent. Through a pilot community mapping and zoning project, ARP helped our partner community designate over 1,600 hectares for conservation. Other reforestation work has included protecting a community water source and a reforestation guide for our region.

To Donate, Click HERE

Reason 7: We Work Responsibly

ARP proactively works to develop as an organization. We may run on a shoestring budget, but we are constantly working to improve or put new processes and procedures in place to advance everything ARP does. This includes transparency; assessment, evaluation and adjustment of our programs; and collaborations on international, national and local scales.

To Donate, Click HERE

Reason 8: We Support Livelihoods

We promote environmentally-friendly livelihoods. ARP is increasingly bringing entrepreneurial aspects into our Eco-Agriculture Program. This work can be as straight-forward as sending excess garden harvests to market, and as complex as building capacity toward value added cacao products.

To Donate, Click HERE


Reason 9: Our Education Program

ARP’s Education Program has an increasingly holistic and regionally-appropriate focus. Through Education Program initiatives, ARP reinforces progressive teaching techniques, supports school and community, and empowers local teachers. For example now that the school year is coming to an end, several local teachers are currently concluding intercultural projects that recognize local heritage.

To Donate, Click HERE


Reason 10: Our Community Center

There is a long list of everything else we have done and do. The La Libertad-ARP Community Center encapsulates many examples: community classes, tutoring, library, workshops, summer camp and other non-formal educational opportunities. The Community Center – a collaboration between ARP and partner community – is also a catalyst for the community; since conception, a community bank has been founded, the sports club membership has doubled and tripled, and there have been several community fundraisers to improve the sector. Your support is needed to continue with the development of the Center and most immediate, the implementation of quality summer programming.

To Donate, Click HERE

Ten years may be a young non-profit, but making it 10 years in our location is a rare accomplishment. With your help, we can look forward to 10 years more. Contact us to help fundraise. If you haven’t given yet, please consider giving $10 to celebrate 10 years and/or give us five – five minutes of your time sharing within your networks why they should give.

Thank you for celebrating 10 years of ARP with us!

 

With a little help from a farmer/ Con un poco de ayuda de un agricultor

Reflection from cacao specialist and agricultural professional Rip Winkel

For the last 10 weeks I have been working on another Farmer to Farmer project, supported by USAID via Partners of the Americas organization, and hosted by the Arajuno Road Project (ARP) here in the eastern side of Ecuador. This is actually my second opportunity in working alongside ARP, the first being about the same time last year. My responsibilities during this trip have been to give lectures and workshops on agricultural topics to certain communities east of the city of Puyo. These topics primarily included training in sustainable agriculture, management of cocoa (pruning, grafting, soil fertility, etc.), the development of community gardens (from planting seed trays to managing gardens and/or greenhouses), as well as others.

Like the year before, included was the task of taking soil samples of various fields within or around the communities, and analyzing them with a LaMotte portable soil test kit for pH, nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium levels. Having this soil sampling kit came in handy in that the previous year I had analyzed soil samples from all the communities with which ARP was involved, including the community of La Libertad (km 6). Recently, ARP moved their base of operations to the community of La Libertad, and has constructed a greenhouse structure for planting vegetable crops for both the community, as well as for marketing, in the same area I had sampled the soil the previous year.

Upon preparing the area for the greenhouse, ARP contacted Esfuerzo II, another community that they have worked with, encouraged and have helped for a number of years, in order to purchase compost.  Not too long ago, a number of members of Esfuerzo II started collecting truckloads of organic trash left over from the produce markets in Puyo. Their original intention for making the compost was to use the product on their own crops. It has evolved, however, into a burgeoning business, where many customers arrive to buy their #50 compost bags. This success has granted them the purchase and construction of their own greenhouse through support from the local government. In addition, they are currently making plans to double the size of their composting shed. ARP purchased some of their compost in order to incorporate it into the soil where the km 6 greenhouse was being built. Adding sand along with the compost, the mix was turned into the soil and prepped for planting.

Since arriving, I have been working with the community of La Libertad in planting up seed trays in anticipation of filling up the green house with crops. Out of curiosity, I decided to take another soil sample from this new greenhouse area, to compare it with the previous year’s analysis. After drying and sieving the sample, I analyzed it for levels of its pH, nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. What resulted was quite a surprise for me.

Over the last 6 years, for Farmer to Farmer as well as for other organizations, I have performed a number of soil analyses in different parts of Ecuador. I can say that the results showing for the soil in La Libertad greenhouse area were the best I have seen yet. Last year it was very acidic soil, having very low levels to no traces of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Now, with the addition of compost from Esfuerzo II, the acidity decreased from pH of 4 to 6, with ample levels of those elements available. The success has been reciprocal, where ARP helped out Esfuerzo II, and this in turn, has definitely benefited ARP with some of the best soil for their greenhouse.

 

Reflexión del especialista en cacao y profesional agrícola Rip Winkel

 

Durante las últimas 10 semanas he estado trabajando en otro proyecto de Farmer to Farmer, apoyado por la USAID a través de los socios de la Organización de las Américas, y auspiciado por Arajuno Road Project (ARP) aquí en Ecuador, Sur América. Esta es, en realidad, mi segunda oportunidad de trabajar junto a ARP, la primera vez siendo el año pasado. Mis responsabilidades durante este viaje han sido dar conferencias y talleres sobre temas agrícolas a ciertas comunidades al este de la ciudad de Puyo. Estos temas incluyeron principalmente la capacitación en agricultura sostenible, la gestión del cacao (poda, injerto, fertilidad de la tierra, etc.), el desarrollo de jardines comunitarios (desde la siembra de bandejas de semillas hasta el manejo de jardines y / o invernaderos) y otros.

Al igual que en el año anterior, se incluyó la tarea de tomar muestras de tierra de varios campos dentro o alrededor de las comunidades y analizarlas con un kit de prueba de tierra portátil LaMotte para niveles de pH, nitrógeno, fósforo y potasio. El hecho de tener este kit de muestreo de tierra fue muy útil ya que el año anterior había analizado muestras de tierra de todas las comunidades con las cuales estaba involucrada ARP, incluyendo la comunidad de La Libertad. Recientemente, ARP trasladó sus operaciones de base a la comunidad de La Libertad y ha construido una estructura de invernadero para plantar hortalizas tanto para la comunidad como para la comercialización en la misma área que yo había muestreado la tierra el año anterior.

Al aclarar el área para el invernadero, ARP contactó Esfuerzo II, otra comunidad con la que han trabajado, y cual  han ayudado durante varios años, para comprar compost. No hace mucho tiempo, varios miembros de Esfuerzo II comenzaron a recolectar camiones llenos de basura orgánica de los mercados de Puyo. Su intención original para hacer el compost era utilizar el producto en sus propios cultivos. Ha evolucionado, sin embargo, en un negocio floreciente, donde muchos clientes llegan a comprar sus bolsas de compost #50. Este éxito les ha concedido la compra y construcción de su propia casa verde. Además, actualmente están haciendo planes para duplicar el tamaño de su cobertizo de compostaje. ARP compró parte de su compost para incorporarlo en la tierra donde se construía el invernadero. Agregando arena junto con el compost, la mezcla se convirtió en tierra y se preparó para la plantación.

Desde mi llegada, he estado trabajando con la comunidad de La Libertad en la plantación de bandejas de semillas en previsión de llenar la casa verde con los cultivos. Por curiosidad, decidí tomar otra muestra de tierra de esta nueva zona de invernadero, para compararla con el análisis del año anterior. Después de secar y tamizar la muestra, la analicé para niveles de su pH, nitrógeno, fósforo y potasio. Lo que resultó fue una sorpresa para mí.

En los últimos 6 años, para Farmer to Farmer, así como para otras organizaciones, he realizado una serie de análisis de tierra en diferentes partes de Ecuador. Puedo decir que los resultados que muestran para la tierra en el área de invernadero en La Libertad fueron los mejores que he visto todavía. El año pasado fue un suelo muy ácido, con niveles muy bajos de rastros de nitrógeno, fósforo y potasio. Ahora, con la adición de compost de Esfuerzo II, la acidez disminuyó de pH de 4 a 6, con amplios niveles de esos elementos disponibles. El éxito ha sido recíproco, donde ARP ayudó a Esfuerzo II, y que a su vez, sin duda ha beneficiado a ARP con muy buena tierra para su casa verde.

School notes/ Nota desde las escuelas

The latest on the Education Program

 

In the first months of 2017, the Education Program has moved forward with important program innovations along the Arajuno Road while continuing to offer daily classes at one partner school.

The first semester of the Ecuadorian school-year officially ended the first week of February. During the school break between semesters, to enrich the knowledge and experience of fifth and sixth grade students studying government structure and Ecuadorian history, we partnered with private donors and a local government organization in order to take 20 students and four teachers on a two-day trip to Quito. The group received guided tours of iconic colonial era buildings and museums, witnessed the “cambio de guardia” ceremony outside the Presidential Palace, visited the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) building and La Mitad del Mundo (equator line) monument, rode thousands of meters on a cable car to overlook the city, and received a guided tour of the Presidential Palace. For many students it was their first time leaving our province of Pastaza and they were very excited to see, touch and enter La Iglesia de San Francisco: the site of a famous myth (The Legend of Cantuña) they have heard all their lives about an indigenous architect who made a pact with the devil in order to finish the structure but then cleverly tricked the devil and retained his own soul.

Later that same week, teachers from two partner schools met to exchange teaching experiences and initiatives. ARP’s Education Coordinator was able to do a presentation about multicultural children’s literature which was well received and motivated many of those teachers to enroll in a three-day workshop at the beginning of March. Through our workshop they received guidance on selecting reading materials that uplift the identity and dignity of students from various backgrounds and on using children’s literature to develop multicultural projects. ARP staff will be selecting the best classroom proposals from participating teachers in order to support multicultural children’s literature projects across various grade levels and schools this semester.

As the Education Coordinator prepared local teachers to carry the baton on project-based learning experiences with a focus on identity, she also wrapped-up several of her own projects with second and third grade students. Parents attended a publishing party for a book written by students, and grandparents attended an appreciation event where they received collages and hand-written letters from students. Both projects were based on the Zapotec story “La Pequeña Niña Que Siempre Tenía Hambre” and involved months of exploration of themes, artistic techniques, and of course, culture, identity and indigeneity.

 

Actualización programa de educación

En los primeros meses de 2017, el programa educativo ha avanzado con importantes innovaciones programáticas a lo largo del Camino Arajuno, mientras continúa ofreciendo clases diarias en una escuela asociada.

El primer semestre del año escolar ecuatoriano finalizó oficialmente la primera semana de febrero. Para enriquecer el conocimiento y la experiencia de estudiantes de quinto y sexto grado que estudian la estructura del gobierno y la historia ecuatoriana, nos asociamos con donantes privados y una organización del gobierno local para llevar a 20 estudiantes y 4 maestros a un viaje de dos días a Quito. El grupo recibió visitas guiadas a los emblemáticos edificios y museos de la época colonial, presenció la ceremonia de “cambio de guardia” fuera del Palacio Presidencial, visitó el edificio La Unión de Naciones Suramericanas (UNASUR) y el monumento La Mitad del Mundo, montó miles de metros en un teleférico para pasar por la ciudad, y recibió una visita guiada del Palacio Presidencial. Para muchos estudiantes era la primera vez que salían de Pastaza y estaban muy emocionados de ver, tocar y entrar en la Iglesia de San Francisco: el sitio de un mito famoso (La Leyenda de Cantuña) que han escuchado toda su vida sobre un arquitecto indígena que Hizo un pacto con el diablo con el fin de terminar una estructura, pero luego ingeniosamente engañó al diablo y conservó su propia alma.

Más tarde esa misma semana, los maestros de dos escuelas asociadas se reunieron para intercambiar experiencias e iniciativas de enseñanza. El coordinador de educación de ARP pudo hacer una presentación sobre literatura infantil multicultural que fue bien recibida y motivó a muchos de esos profesores a inscribirse en un taller de tres días a principios de marzo en el que recibieron orientación sobre la selección de materiales de lectura que elevaran la identidad y la dignidad de los estudiantes de diversos orígenes y en el uso de la literatura infantil para desarrollar proyectos multiculturales. Esta semana el personal de ARP seleccionará las mejores propuestas de los maestros para apoyar proyectos de literatura multicultural infantil en varios niveles de grado y escuelas este semestre.

A medida que la Coordinadora de Educación preparaba a los maestros locales para llevar la batuta en las experiencias de aprendizaje basadas en proyectos con un enfoque en la identidad, también envolvió varios de sus propios proyectos con estudiantes de segundo y tercer grado. Los padres asistieron a una fiesta de la publicación de un libro escrito por los estudiantes, y los abuelos asistieron a un evento del aprecio donde recibieron los collages y las letras mano-escritas de estudiantes. Ambos proyectos se basaron en la historia zapoteca “La Pequeña Niña Que Siempre Tenía Hambre” e involucraron meses de exploración de temas, técnicas artísticas y, por supuesto, cultura, identidad e indigeniedad.

 

International Collaboration: GloRe Project/ Participación en el Proyecto GloRe

Promoting non-formal learning + volunteer recognition

ARP is participating in an Erasmus+ (European Voluntary Service) project for the first time! This is an important step towards establishing a closer cooperation with the European Union and other NGOs aiming to improve their target populations’ quality of life. We are collaborating with five other organizations: Vive Mexico, MySmallHelp Peru, Rota Jovem Portugal, Joint Italy, and Service Volontaire International Belgium. This cooperation will help strengthen our transatlantic relations and improve communications between the two continents.

The objectives of the GloRe (short for Global Recognition) program are to recognize the importance of quality learning experiences by following the principles of Non-Formal Education and Volunteering. This can consequently improve the employability of young people and support their social cohesion. The program’s goals emerged because volunteering service is often undervalued as relevant professional experience. As a result, we will aim to create an open global forum of recognition for the skills acquired during the service period. We hope it will become a sustainable space for exchanges, cooperation, and new ideas.

The project started in late November with a commencement meeting in Genoa, Italy, where participants met for the first time, planned future actions, and presented their respective organizations. ARP was represented by Advisory Board member Femi Vance, PhD, who brought us more information on the logistics and purpose of the program. The second meeting took place in February. Participants again met in Italy, except this time in an eco-agricultural farm next to lake Trasimeno. In harmony with nature and accompanied by farm animals, partner organizations shared their positive and negative experiences in advancing the program. The training was concentrated on the evaluation of skills, capacities, volunteers’ progress, ways to cope with cultural shock, and the specific goals they will meet. Our Operations Coordinator Indre was on board this time.

The last preparation session was recently held in Peru. The representatives of ARP (Education Coordinator Stephanie, partner school teacher Fanny, and Indre) got more information on the upcoming actions, the dynamics of trainings and the working conditions in each partner country. This meeting was the last stage before the longest and the most important part – welcoming European volunteers for a period of five months. They recently came in early May. ARP is hosting two volunteers ‒ Giulia from Italy and Ana Luisa from Portugal. Meanwhile, two members from our community will have a once in a lifetime opportunity to travel to Europe; Ivonne will assist a daily center for disabled people in Belgium, while Darling is already helping a local municipality in Portugal with environmental projects: reforestation, beach cleaning and sustainable tourism. Once back, they will share their experiences and knowledge with everyone interested!

 

Promover el aprendizaje informal + el reconocimiento del voluntariado

Este año, ARP participa en un proyecto Erasmus+ por la primera vez! Esto es un paso importante hacia el establecimiento de una cooperación más estrecha con la Unión Europea y las demás ONG con el fin de mejorar la calidad de vida de sus poblaciones beneficiarias. El programa GloRe, abreviamiento por el Reconocimiento Global, tiene como objetivo valorar las habilidades que los voluntarios adquieren durante su período de servicio. Colaboramos con otras cinco organizaciones: Vive México, MySmallHelp de Perú, Rota Jovem Portugal, Joint Italy y Service Volontaire International Belgium. Esta cooperación ayudará a fortalecer nuestras relaciones transatlánticas y mejorar las comunicaciones entre dos continentes.

El objetivo de GloRe es reconocer la importancia de experiencias de aprendizaje de calidad siguiendo los principios de Aprendizaje no Formal y Voluntariado. Esto puede, en consecuencia, mejorar la empleabilidad de los jóvenes y apoyar su cohesión social. Los objetivos del programa surgieron porque el servicio de voluntariado es a menudo infravalorado como experiencia pertinente. Como resultado, trataremos de crear un foro mundial de reconocimiento para la experiencia del voluntariado. Esperamos que se convierta en un espacio sostenible para el intercambio, la cooperación y las nuevas ideas.

El proyecto comenzó a finales de noviembre con una reunión de inicio en Génova, Italia, donde los participantes se reunieron por primera vez, planificaron futuras acciones y presentaron sus respectivas organizaciones. ARP fue representada por Femmi Vance, quien nos brindó más información sobre la logística y el propósito del programa. La segunda reunión tuvo lugar en febrero. Los participantes volvieron a reunirse en Italia, excepto esta vez en una granja ecológica junto al lago Trasimeno. En armonía con la naturaleza y acompañados por animales de granja, compartieron sus experiencias positivas y negativas en el avance del programa. La capacitación se concentró en la evaluación y utilización de las capacidades, el progreso de los voluntarios, las maneras de operar frente al choque cultural y los objetivos específicos que realizarán. Nuestro Coordinador de Operaciones Indre estuvo a bordo esta vez.

La última sesión de preparación pasó en Perú, después de lo cual hemos dado la bienvenida a nuevos voluntarios por un período de 5 meses empezando a principios de mayo.  ARP acogeró a dos voluntarias, una de Italia y otra de Portugal. Mientras tanto, dos individuos de nuestra comunidad tendrán la oportunidad de viajar a Europa. Ivonne ayudará a un centro diario para personas con discapacidad en Bélgica, mientras que Darling esta ayudando a un municipio local de Casscais con proyectos medioambientales: reforestación, limpieza de playas y turismo sostenible. Una vez de vuelta, compartirán sus experiencias y conocimientos con todos los interesados!

Making the Cacao Connection (Part 1)

[Published: March 2017]

What’s better than chocolate? Helping our partner community Chuya Yaku with cacao production, processing and in discovering potential value-added cacao products. Much of Arajuno Road Project’s work revolves around connecting local communities with resources that promote a healthy future in the Ecuadorian Amazon, and we couldn’t be happier with recent events. Thanks to our partnership with Farmer-to-Farmer, we’ve been able to connect several of our partner communities with a level of agricultural technical support normally inaccessible in our province of Ecuador. (Part 1 of series.)

Always on the quest with our partner communities to meet basic needs in sustainable ways, ARP has been helping with school and community gardens for more than five years. Our first goal has always been garden to table – getting produce on the school lunch plate and on the kitchen table. An important second has been income generation. A third goal, in the pursuit of environmentally-friendly options, has been to identify native plants that can meet the previous goals. And so it was that cacao found a place at ARP.

However, finding a worthwhile path forward is only the beginning. Our weekly agriculture rounds to our partner communities were already full. We were already foregoing our salaries on a regular basis and relying heavily on volunteers to be able to run our programs. The path was full of challenges that many people would consider impassible obstacles. It always is. We are used to this. The benefit of doing what you love is that as long as you can plant (figuratively) seeds for a healthy future, it’s worth it. We are now planting those seeds with the help of Farmer-to-Farmer.

Our partner community, Chuya Yaku, is advancing down this path thanks to cacao specialist Rip. He began his assignment with us in 2016. He returned in 2017 to continue this work. Week after week, he was on the road before the sun was up, heading down to a different community member’s farm, where the other farmers joined in. Demonstrate and practice. Learn and apply. Each week working on pruning, soils, pest control, etc.

After Rip’s first visit in 2016, local technicians from Ecuador’s national agricultural agency noticed the community had surpassed its neighbors in technical knowledge; when he returned in 2017, the local agricultural technicians also joined in and collaborated. We were all sad to see him go, but he leaves all of us with new knowledge and techniques for cacao cultivation and more.  

Read about Rip’s work in his own words:

While this blog post focuses on cacao, it would not be complete without acknowledging Rip’s many contributions to other area’s of ARP’s agricultural work. Equally important is to acknowledge the commitment and contribution of ARP’s Sub-Director and Agricultural Technician Rodrigo, Peace Corps Volunteers Leah and Alicea, and Farmer-to-Farmer specialist Alex (read his blog) to our Eco-Agriculture Program.

Written by Laura Hepting, Director of the Arajuno Road Project

Making the Cacao Connection (Part 2)

[Published: March 2017]

What’s better than chocolate? Helping our partner community Chuya Yaku with cacao production, processing and in discovering potential value-added cacao products. Much of Arajuno Road Project’s work revolves around connecting local communities with resources that promote a healthy future in the Ecuadorian Amazon, and we couldn’t be happier with recent events. Thanks to our partnership with Farmer-to-Farmer, we’ve been able to connect several of our partner communities with a level of agricultural technical support normally inaccessible in our province of Ecuador. (Part 2 of series.)

Meet Becca, Farmer-to-Farmer cacao specialist and indi chocolate guru. With a perfectly timed visit, she helped solidify ARP and Rip’s work (see part 1) by providing valuable insight into the end goals for the cacao farmers. Becca delivered a tasty cacao processing and value added workshop earlier this month.

She sums up wonderfully the experience on indi chocolate’s blog (full article follows with photos). Selected quotes:

“The cultivation of cacao offers a symbiotic solution with the rainforest and its people. It has the potential to bring a more holistic level of prosperity to the community and region without destroying their complex ecosystem.”

“Even though I did not have all of the answers for them my goal was to show them all the possibilities they had with the production of cacao. Empower them with the knowledge that they could have control of their own production and post harvest production of cacao and therefore have more control over price they charge for their cacao. I wanted them to know that there are more and more bean to bar chocolate makers in the Minority World that cared about the farmers. indi chocolate and other bean to bar makers want a fair and just price for cacao that was properly cared for, to pay farmers direct. We care about the success and well being of the farmer.”

“At some point during the workshop the energy shifted and I was no longer a necessary facilitator. I stood back and took photos of the community making their very first batch of chocolate. I over heard them talking about what they could add to the chocolate and who they could sell the chocolate to.

I made sure they separated the CCN-51 from the Cacao Nacional and without being prompted they tried the two side by side and proudly announced that the Cacao Nacional did not taste bitter at all and no sugar was needed. It was a magical moment, I could feel their eyes light up, the fire burning inside of them and it was infectious.”

Full blog article:

Amazon Cacao Farmers: Preventing Deforestation in Ecuador

Amazon Cacao Farmers: Preventing Deforestation in Ecuador

 

Chuya Yaku is a Kichwa community in Ecuador located in the heart of the Amazon. Their cacao growing efforts are preventing deforestation in the rainforest.

cacao production

In Kichwa, Chuya Yaku means clear water. Kichwa is the indigenous language spoken by just over 180 people that live in the community and is a common dialect of the region.

Until 2012 Chuya Yaku was inaccessible by road, the elders of the community report that it would take them over a week to reach Puyo, and two days to the nearest town. Once  oil industries found out that there was valuable oil in the region, they built a road with the intention of extracting resources. Excessive logging is a secondary effect of the road being built. In the last three years lumber and oil industries and even the local municipality have put money into road and bridge development for continued extraction of resources and extending roads farther into the rainforest.

illeagal logging

Even though resources are being exploited and creating a negative impact on surrounding communities, the majority of Kichwa people still would choose to have road access rather than being secluded in the jungle. On our way down to Chuya Yuku we saw at least ten illegal logging access points, half a dozen trucks carrying oil and brand new Volkswagon bus full of workers to aid in the extraction of oil.

Having an open dialogue about the communities’ experiences and hardships with cacao production was invaluable. They told me stories of how they continually get taken advantage of by greedy intermediaries, sometimes only getting 30 cents per pound of cacao. The intermediaries are buying cacao to sell to Nestle or other large chocolate corporations and are only concerned with the bottom line. The farmers also face diseases that infect their cacao pods, diseases like Monilia, that infect and rot the cacao pod.

talking with farmers

They have stories of government funded agencies coming in and giving them a high yield cacao, called CCN-51, which is less susceptible to diseases but lacks any flavor. Many farmers have left the more flavorful and native varietals to rot on the trees favoring the higher yielding varietals.

community sorting beans

It is clear that in order to prevent deforestation, contamination of the environment and the livelihood of its people, there needs to be opportunities for the Kichwa people to have a sustainable income as they become more and more exposed to a globalized world. When it comes to combating multinational oil and timber industries, they can use all the support and expertise they can get, as long as their best interests are being met.

farmers drinking chocolate

Chuya Yaku has dedicated a large portion of their territory to preserving their natural resources, many thanks to the Arajuno Road Project who worked with the Chuya Yaku on a community zoning and mapping project. If they can successfully make a living selling cacao instead of hardwood they can show other neighboring communities that there are better long-term solutions for their community than the complete destruction of the environment they live in.

The cultivation of cacao offers a symbiotic solution with the rainforest and its people. It has the potential to bring a more holistic level of prosperity to the community and region without destroying their complex ecosystem.

cacao producer

It is easy for me to be offer up my opinions on preserving the rainforest and present my solutions coming from a nation that is developed, otherwise known as the Minority World.  People in developing nations or the Majority World are still fighting for basic needs and often do whatever they can do to feed their families, the need direct incentives that help them feed their families in the short term. Offering long term solutions like the cultivation of cacao requires a lot of continued support and farmers already feel burned from past experiences working with companies from the Minority World.

When I first spoke with the farmers they wanted to know who was going to buy their cacao at a fair price if they spent the time to nurture their heirloom varietals, they wanted to know what could be done to build a fermentation center and drying center for the post harvest processing of cacao, what kind of materials they needed and how were they going to afford it. They wanted to know how to prevent their cacao from diseases. They wanted to know how many kilos of cacao they needed to produce to be able to have control of the price of their cacao. They wanted to trust that caring for their plants was worth it in order to support their families.

cacao

Even though I did not have all of the answers for them my goal was to show them all the possibilities they had with the production of cacao. Empower them with the knowledge that they could have control of their own production and post harvest production of cacao and therefore have more control over price they charge for their cacao. I wanted them to know that there are more and more bean to bar chocolate makers in the Minority World that cared about the farmers. indi chocolate and other bean to bar makers want a fair and just price for cacao that was properly cared for, to pay farmers direct. We care about the success and well being of the farmer.

Offering technical support, making connections and opening the door to possibilities is what I offered during my time spent with the community. The term direct trade was definitely a newer concept that took some time to explain, but was important for me to relay.

heart cacao

Throughout the class we tried various chocolate, made by bean to bar chocolate makers from the United States.  They tasted multiple bars all using Ecuadorian cacao, including indi chocolate.  None of them had ever tried chocolate made from Cacao Nacional beans.

Some cultures in what was once Mesoamerica have a special history with cacao, but in these jungle communities cacao is a fruit, like papaya or mango. The Kichwa do not have a history of making cacao into chocolate, so when they heard that I was going to teach them how to make chocolate they were very excited.

chocolate refiner

The first day we brought gas into the community and got the generator working to run the Chocolate Refiner and we made chocolate together. Everyone stuck their heads in to see the stone wheels grinding the cacao. When the chocolate was smooth enough, we filled a giant cauldron with milk, sugar and chocolate. Everyone sipped happily as we filled and refilled each other’s cup.

chocolate making

After traveling to many different countries, one thing that always remains true, communities that have very little often give the most. Not only were we fed special Miato, fish and yucca cooked in banana leaves over the fire, we were treated graciously and honored as guests. As I sat talking to one woman, a little girl started playing with my hair and a woman pressed to my lips a bowl full of chicha, yucca that is fermented and served by the community elders.

mito

We visited some of their chakras, bio-diverse family farms, to see the conditions of the plants, it is true that many of the plants had been diseased with Monilia. For the last three months they had been getting help from a cacao technician, learning more about how to care for their plants. They had been heavily focused on pruning and improving the quality of the soil around the trees. They are highly motivated to learn more and to improve the quality of production.

roasting beans over the fire

Over the fire we roasted two batches of cacao that they had grown, fermented and dried. One was CCN-51 and the other Cacao Nacional. As the beans cracked from the heat, we began to smell the familiar chocolate aroma. Around a table we winnowed the bean, removing the husk from the bean. Everyone took turns using the hand grinder to grind the cacao beans into a powdery paste.

grinding cacao

At some point during the workshop the energy shifted and I was no longer a necessary facilitator. I stood back and took photos of the community making their very first batch of chocolate. I over heard them talking about what they could add to the chocolate and who they could sell the chocolate to.

I made sure they separated the CCN-51 from the Cacao Nacional and without being prompted they tried the two side by side and proudly announced that the Cacao Nacional did not taste bitter at all and no sugar was needed. It was a magical moment, I could feel their eyes light up, the fire burning inside of them and it was infectious.

community of farmers kichwa cacao farmers

There are many factors that make cacao production harder than harvesting hardwoods, but in the long run rainforest communities as well as the rest of the world will benefit from the sustainable production of cacao. It is up to us, people from the Minority World, to prove that the efforts cacao farmers make to care for their heirloom cacao is worth it. Understanding that the cost of chocolate that is supporting cacao farmers has a higher cost than chocolate produced with unknown origins. In the case of Chuya Yaku buying cacao from this community would aid in preventing extraction of oil, deforestation and further contamination by extraction of non sustainable commodity goods.

The average production of cacao does not support the community where it originates from. Choosing companies that work directly with farmers positively impacts the farmers themselves. The reverse is also true, when you choose to buy from companies that make no efforts to support farmers you are directly impacting these communities in a negative way. By no means is it fair to assume that everyone from the Minority World can afford to consume chocolate that reflect direct trade pricing, but the hope is that everyone understands that chocolate is truly a treat, that should be nurtured and cared for throughout the whole process and should be appreciated and respected for the work that goes into growing and making it.

hopes for the future

A chocolate making workshop in Chuya Yaku is just the start, if they want to build a fermentation center, make cacao based products and have chocolate ecotourism, they will need continued guidance and support so they can really compete with multinational efforts working to keep the price of cacao down.

Article Written by Rebecca Roebber, Marketing Director for indi chocolate