Building bridges in the cocao market

Four members of Starkmacher e.V. have been travelling in Bolivia in March 2019 as part of the "Creative Cacao" project. The aim was to find out the status and development possibilities of production and distribution of so-called "wild cocoa" from Camiaco and Villa Alba in the Beni region, regions known for the high quality of their cocoa.
This article:
29.04.2019 / 17 Uhr

Insights into the life and work of the indigenous population

Together with colleagues from Bolivia, Brazil, Italy and Colombia, the project participants got an impression of the living and working conditions of the people in the villages along the Mamoré River, which are largely cut off from the outside world. They looked for opportunities for cooperation, promotion and support in the fields of education, training and economic cooperation. The aim is to open up the market for the cocoa beans to small farmers. Cocoa beans were previously sold at extremely low prices, especially in Europe. The project aims at establishing networks between the partner countries.

The development of improved sanitary condition, general mobility and access to education, especially for young people, also depends on this.

Traveling in a dugout

The Bolivian partner, Fundación Unisol, introduced the guests to the origins of indigenous culture in the Andean region of Bolivia. Together they visited the ruins of Samaipata, discovered and experienced the climatic characteristics of the region and immersed themselves in the omnipresent importance of cocoa as a natural means of payment and exchange, among other things.

Afterwards they went for four days in the middle of the Mamoré river system. Due to the rainy season, no country roads were passable, so that the participants had to travel by dugout canoe. After a 17-hour journey by land and water, the group reached the village of Camiaco, where the people live from fishing, logging, agriculture with cattle breeding and the harvest and processing of cocoa. The project participants were able to witness the sometimes very laborious and strenuous harvesting of the wild cocoa trees, which are up to 15m high.

Training in cocoa processing

A training course given by the Italian cocoa expert Andrea Onelli, who had travelled with the group, particularly highlighted aspects of hygiene and fermentation as well as drying of the cocoa in order to be able to obtain the quality of the beans that is possible due to the genetics and the special naturalness of the cultivation method.

The discussions and exchanges with the local population then focused on how the European partners can support local groups of cocoa collectors so that their products can be presented at the international cocoa fair in Amsterdam.

Local political representatives also offered their support.

Cocoa crop cultivation and education for the youngest

Whereas in Camiaco it was mainly the processing of the wild cocoa collected, in Villa Alba it was the targeted cultivation of cocoa. Here, the provincial government has promised to bring the cocoa seedlings and the seedlings for useful woods into the project free of charge. The aim is to establish new cocoa plantations in the agroforestry system, i.e. the cocoa trees are planted together with field crops and timber trees, which also provide the necessary shade.

The last stage of the journey was a visit to a kindergarten run by the partner Fundación Unisol. An institution with 150 children, which has served as a model for 10 kindergartens in the region. The initiators of the social project have set up a small chocolate factory to finance the project.