At about half an hour from Tocache along a dusty road, we visit an Association of small producers of cacao, where the farmers have got together to create their own Association. The “Mujeres Cacaoteras” is made up of a small group of female cacao producers who belong to the Association.
It is interesting to hear the story of the inhabitants of the Nuevo Bambamarca community. The inhabitants of Nuevo Bambamarca, migrated from Cajamarca (located further North of Peru) in the 1950’s in search of fertile land. As they inhabited these lands, they turned to the cultivation of coca. The period of the 1980s was the boom of coca cultivation, where dollars were flying in every direction. A very different picture to the one I see now, where there are very little remains of this so called “prosperous” period.
The boom was short lived, and what followed the next 10 years was a period of violence and misery. As part of the United States program to eliminate the cultivation of coca across Latin America, plots were denuded of coca plants through aerial spraying of glyphosate herbicide. From one day to the next, the people found themselves with very little. This false prosperous economy was replaced with famine, violence and terrorism.
As the women cacao farmers tell me their story, I can’t help feeling the sorrow and misery that these people have been through. The eradication of coca was followed by years of violence and terror. The area was entrenched with drug cartels, terrorists and the military.
I am told that on the road from Tocache to Nuevo Bambamarca, it was quite normal to see dead bodies on the side of the road. It is difficult to imagine that this is the same road we are driving through today, and that this was less than 20 years ago.
It was not until 2003, that the Peruvian government along with U.S foreign aid agency, USAID begun a program to substitute coca with another crop. Until then the people of Nuevo Bambamarca and Tocache had very much been left to their own device, and not even the police dared to enter in these areas because it was so dangerous.
However, to get to where we are today, has been a lengthy and challenging process for USAID and the Peruvian government. It is only in the recent years, that we are seeing the fruits of the projects.
It is in this context, that I am here with Lourdes and Vilsic, who are here to work on a project as part of the program to support cacao as an alternative crop. Vilsic and Lourdes have been working along with PDA (Programma desarollo alternativo), funded by USAID to develop a program for women cacao farmers to make and commercialize their own chocolate.
Below is the workshop that has been built and equipped especially for the women cacao farmers of the Association to produce their own chocolate. In this photo you can see the roasting machine and the willowing machine which removes the cask of the cacao bean, and breaks the cacao bean into nibs.
Lourdes presents the project of the “Mujeres Cacaoteras” to the members of the Association who are all small producers of cacao.
After the presentation, the members are shown round the new “chocolateria” which should soon be in full swing. The women cacao producers will then be invited to the Salon de Cacao y Chocolate to sell and sample their chocolates.
Vilsic testing out the roaster