As one of very few cacao-growing communities to also become chocolate makers, Quincha farmers in Ecuadorian Amazon are gaining recognition for their revolutionary business model in the industry, providing a leading example of how growers can process their raw product to increase the sustainability of their livelihoods and local environment. The Quincha’s Kallari bars will hit the shelves in Whole Food Stores across the US this month.
The producers are united in the Kallari Association, a cooperative which was established ten years ago and has grown to count more than 800 Quichua families from the Napo Province. The group now has a viable income from cacao, selling their product as a single unit to avoid middlemen and keep the profits within the community, and recently extended this to producing and selling their own organic chocolate bars.
Achieving this financial stability has also meant the community is much stronger today in rejecting the short-term gains of logging their forests, petroleum extraction or selling their land. The Kallari has also started a social program for their members with organic certification, which includes retirement funds, health insurance and educational support.
The chocolate bars are made using a blend of several varietals, with the main flavor attributed to the Cacao Nacional de Arriba bean. In 2004, these rare beans were singled out for protection by the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity and the Nacional Cacao Presidium was established. The project has focused on increasing quality by improving the fermentation and drying of the beans and helping producers obtain better prices on the national and international market.
In 2006, 10,000 euro was donated by Insieme, a non-profit foundation formed by eight Italian winemakers from La Morra, to build the Presidia producers a warehouse for processing and storing the beans. The Presidia participates in the international Slow Food events Terra Madre and Salone del Gusto every two years in Turin, assisting them to find further opportunities and join others from around the world in protecting biodiversity and artisan production.