Empowering our farmers...
The Colombian Project
Luisa teaching her farmers in Colombia
Luisa with Carmen in Huila
Luisa with Martha in Santander
Yanira next to a cacao tree in Antioquia
Great beans make Great Chocolate
As our motto goes, high quality cacao beans are required for Luisa to be able to make her award-winning chocolate. The project is focused on finding out what exactly makes a 'great bean', and alongside the University of Nottingham, we are using science and DNA sequencing to discover this.
Teaching our farmers
Using our scientific knowledge, Luisa travelled to Colombia to share apparatus and instructions that the farmers can use to fine-tune their fermentation techniques and ensure they cultivate super-premium crops. When the beans arrive at our chocolate makery and Luisa transforms them into chocolate, our customers taste the chocolate and feedback to us. We then analyse the feedback of each crop to check that our farmers are on the right track to making the finest quality cacao possible.
Coca to cacao
The goal is to empower our female farmers to use their land for cacao, coined "The Peace Crop", rather than cocaine, and take ownership of their land. We are paying our farmers up to 69% more, motivating communities in Colombia, and making excellent tasting chocolate at the same time!
THE PROBLEM & HOW WE ARE HELPING...
Colombia has become a worldwide symbol for illicit drug cultivation. Regular families have
been physically or financially pushed into farming coca, the base ingredient of cocaine, and live a
life built on uncertainty, crime and violence.
These families live in financial instability, with staggeringly low education rates.
Dangerous cocaine cartels rule here, and it is easy to see why coca farming is not an industry where women thrive. In an attempt to change this depressing narrative for Colombian farmers, the government eventually came up with the Crop Substitution Program. This financially incentivised farmers to grow legal crops like cacao instead.
Cacao, coined “the peace crop”, is the optimal swap-out for coca. It requires identical farming conditions and even sounds the same
(Which is why we use the word 'cacao' to stop confusion). However, without a stable income and the education needed to grow high-quality beans that they can get a better-than-commodity price for, swapping chocolate for cocaine might not be as tempting as it sounds. Therefore, Funded by the UK government’s Prosperity Fund, the University of Nottingham is working with the only chocolate maker in Nottingham, Luisa, to work directly with three female farmers (Yanira, Martha and Carmen), in Colombia. The aim of the project, which began in 2017, was to bring training and technology to Colombian female farmers, who for too long have been left with few financial options.
Luisa was invited to the
Foreign and Commonwealth Office for her dedication to the project. She made a passionate speech, where she brought people to tears with her homage to the farmers, exclaiming
"TO THE FARMERS!"
Carmen Magali Eraso Adarme is one of the
farmers providing Luisa with delicious Colombian beans. In May 2019, Luisa was welcomed to
Carmen’s cacao plantation to strengthen their
partnership and learn more about each other’s lives as women working in the vast world
of chocolate. Now
that cacao’s importance in Colombia has grown,
it is becoming more common for women to
be working in this field. However, Carmen described how “women still find challenges constantly”, due to farming “typically being seen
as a man’s role, and women being perceived as
She proudly shared with me that “for cacao
specifically, women have tried to change that
perception by showing society, men and farmers that they do have the capability, that they
do have the qualities they require to struggle
against obstacles and know that they are capable of being farmers and delivering good results.”
It is Carmen’s wish “for people to know that female farmers in Colombia, specifically in cacao crops, are very passionate and very entrepreneurial. We have a lot of goals and have the strength to carry that through our entire lives. I want to share the passion and the pride we feel by being female farmers in Colombia, so people can relate to this and maybe try our product, because we work hard for the production of high-quality cocoa. We want people to learn about the amazing product that gives us everything we have in life.”
Carmen lives in Palermo, Colombia, and the plantation she runs with her husband Victor is on painfully steep land and is difficult to access, especially when carrying the beans on their backs. She explained that “in Colombia, farmers are not traditionally well paid for their work or product. The gains we have had are much higher than what we used to get before we started this process with Luisa.” Carmen hopes with the increase in profits, she can improve her transportation to make it easier and safer to transport the cacao. She added that working with Luisa has allowed her to send her son to college, and for her and Victor to start learning English, which she hopes will help them access further education.
Words by Ruby Willow for Read Cacao Magazine, issue two.