When I was a child, my grandmother used to tell me amazing stories about riding “burros” through the mountains to arrive to the “haciendas” of Cacao, growing in the shadows of other enormous trees like Mijaos, Bucares, Guamas, Apamates, Mangos and Ceibas and rivers that ran across those lands.
My great grandfather was a Cacao farmer, and so was his father and finally my grandmother’s brother: four and five generations ago, 200 years of history. After arriving from Corsica in the 1800’s they based themselves in Rio Caribe, a small town on the eastern coast of Venezuela, the south east portal of the Caribbean in touch with the Atlantic.
There they got involved in planting and commercializing Cacao with Swiss Chocolate Makers, just like their cousins and many other Corsican families did as a way of living for most of the 1800´s & 1900’s. They made a decent life for themselves, full of hard work that at the end provided many rewards.
On the year 2010 I learned that Cacao was going to be the commodity with the biggest surge in price in history. Since I was working in finance then, I started to do some research on why someone would make such a strong statement; I began to recall the stories of Cacao farms my grandmother had told me.
During years I’ve been studying the problems that cacao farming entails. As an example, in Ecuador, a study shows that farmers experience the following issues:
- Lack of Technical Assistance 21%
- Low prices 16%
- Labor costs 15%
- Roads 13%
- Weather 10%
- Financing 8%
- Labor 7%
- Interest rates 3%
In 2015 I decided to visit Rio Caribe. After farm hunting for days, we got to a small house and asked the people who lived there if they knew about the location of the Luciani’s “hacienda”. When I mentioned the name, the person I was addressing stopped for a moment and then started shouting “Papa” “Papa” llego Luciani! (Dad, Dad, Luciani is here!).
They had been waiting for years for a member of the family to return to the farm. I got with them on a motorcycle and they took me to the farm. Later I found out that this house belonged to my grandmother’s uncle, I will go back to find my grandmother’s farm and I will keep you updated in that search.
Most of these people feel that their way of life is about to be extinguished because the new generations don’t see a way to make progress out of Cacao planting and some varieties are in danger.
Our project is about selecting a group of small farmers, measuring their current production, providing them with the resources to improve their harvest and allowing them to sell their Cacao in the form of chocolate through a partnership that we have established with Small Batch Chocolate Makers to manufacture our chocolate and with your support to create a market for these farmers. The more people we gather, the more farmers we will empower to sell finished goods, instead of selling only their beans.
Every year you will be able to have your share guaranteed from our farmers in the form of nibs, couverture or chocolate. You’ll also be able to see the progress farmers make with your participation.
In this way, we expect our organization will be able to benefit more farmers, as well as you, by assuring the profits from the chocolate we eat gets to the right people in the right way.