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