Fair chocolate made by the hard working women of Mompiche

Rather than solely purchasing rainforests, a more sustainable approach is to ensure they are not sold in the first place and are utilized in environmentally friendly ways. Ecuador is predominantly home to the finest cacao variety known as Arriba Nacional, which exclusively thrives in the jungle and is ideally suited for sustainable agroforestry. Cultivating cacao offers a means to coexist with and benefit from the forest without causing harm to it.

Status October, 2023:  Artwork by the UDLA. Next Steps: Completion of business plan and acquire funding.

A sustainable, social and economic project

In the region now known as Ecuador, cacao cultivation and consumption have been cherished traditions spanning thousands of years. The variety of cacao that reigns supreme in Ecuador is the exquisite Cacao Arriba Nacional, renowned for its fine flavor. Unlike the common CCN 51 clones dominating global cocoa production, Arriba Nacional is a jungle-exclusive cacao demanding more care, including the removal of parasites, and being more susceptible to diseases. Yet, its unparalleled quality sets it apart.Our project's mission is to provide a stable income for one of Ecuador's most vulnerable groups: women and their children. We aim to empower them and foster economic independence. Our program includes childcare services while women work, offering a safe space for kids to play and learn.

Artwork for Aiyana Chocolate by students of the Universidad de Las Americas (UDLA) Design Department

Simultaneously, we ensure the sustainable use of the jungle. Cocoa cultivation within agroforestry systems, particularly the Chakra system, has a rich tradition in Ecuador. The Chakra system represents the indigenous communities' traditional cultivation method in the Amazon. Within these forest gardens, not only cacao but also up to 100 other plants and tree species are nurtured, providing additional sources of income for farmers. This system exhibits resilience to climate change, maintains soil fertility, and eliminates the need for chemical fertilizers or pesticides. It can serve as a promising model for environmentally-friendly cocoa cultivation.Learning how to harness the jungle's resources sustainably while securing a steady income is especially meaningful in a country where over one-third of the population earns less than $84.05 USD per month, and nearly 15% face extreme poverty. It is, perhaps, the most effective way to safeguard the rainforest.

The effort Ecuadorians put in growing Arriba Nacional doesn't pay of.

Sadly, cocoa cultivation remains an unprofitable venture worldwide. Small farmers account for 90% to 95% of global cocoa production, and among the 5 million families dependent on cocoa, approximately 2 million live in extreme poverty, earning less than $47.37 USD per month, despite the presence of fairly traded cocoa, which makes up nearly one-third of the world's cocoa market. In Ecuador, the situation is relatively better than in Africa, but it's still challenging.Ecuadorian cocoa farmers, who diligently cultivate the prized Arriba Nacional variety, receive little compensation for their additional efforts. Since fine-flavored cocoa isn't typically certified, prices are negotiated between small cooperatives or individual farmers and middlemen, resulting in compensation similar to that of average cocoa varieties. Regrettably, this situation poses another threat to the rainforest, as 40% of Ecuador's cocoa now originates from CCN 51 clones, cultivated in areas that were once lush jungles. Disturbingly, some companies, like Nestlé, actively encourage this development.

It is not commonly known that cocoa beans are surrounded by a sweet, sticky substance. The best part of the cacao harvest is eating this pulp and here you see an admirer of this practice.

On the flip side, a bar of chocolate crafted from fine Arriba Nacional cocoa can sell for anywhere from just under $5 to over $15 USD. This is precisely why we made the choice to produce chocolate rather than selling the beans: to ensure the entire value chain remains in the country of origin, benefiting the hardworking cocoa growers.

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Why we don't sell beans

One-third of the world's cocoa crop is fairly traded, and one-third of the world's cocoa farmers live below the absolute poverty line. And that has been the case for decades. What would have to change for anything to actually change?

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On the situation of woman and children in Ecuador and Esmeraldas

After the corona crisis just over one third of Ecuadors population earns less than $84.05 per month. Almost 15% live in extreme poverty with less than $47.37 per month. Women are particularly affected by unimployment and . Another problem is the high rate of teenage pregnancies. Ecuador has the highest adolescent fertility rate among all countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

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