Over the last couple of weeks, our company’s founders, Sara and Andres, have been making their way across some of Ecuador’s most beautiful, remote and culturally important chocolate producing regions.
Joined by their friends Andy Jamerson, from Berlin’s Coffee Circle, and Cecile Bouchet, a London-based socioeconomic development advocate, Sara and Andres’ initial days Ecuador have already been incredibly productive and exciting.
Landing in Quito, Ecuador’s vibrant capital city, before travelling to the small northern town of Cristóbal Colón, our friends and colleagues then embarked on a short expedition into the westerly reaches of the Chocó Cloud Forest. Staying with Marjorie, the president of her local farmers’ association, in the heart of the forest, Sara, Andres, Andy and Cecile were given a fascinating insight into the daily lives of the small-scale farmers that Rio Nuevo has been working so hard to support over the last couple of years.
Over the course of their initial days in western Ecuador, our friends were struck by both the hospitality of the people that they met and the harsh reality of life as a small-scale farmer in one of Ecuador’s most impoverished rural regions. Walking two hours from her local village to reach her farm, Marjorie’s experience as a cacao grower is a both remarkable testament to her personal tenacity and strength, and a damning indictment of the negligible support that farmers across the region have historically received from government and large-scale corporate coffers. Routinely making the journey back to her village on foot with her crop in hand due to the lack of suitable roads in the area, Marjorie’s story inspired us to rethink the ways in which we can help to provide practical support to such remote, uniquely challenged and historically neglected areas.
The geographic area that surrounds Marjorie’s farm is beautiful. Home to a rich, vibrant culture built around small-scale agriculture, it was the perfect place for Sara and Andres’ to begin their journey in earnest. Using Marjorie’s farm as a base, our colleagues and their companions were able to spend invaluable face-to-face time with cacao farmers like Milton, Silvia and Mario. One of the things that struck us about the people that we met across this region was the care that they took to look after fragile ecosystems that bordered their farms. Armed with an incredible knowledge of their natural surroundings, the farmers of the Cristóbal Colón region reinforced our belief in the fact that communities like theirs should be protected, empowered and allowed to play a central part to play in efforts to conserve and protect Ecuador’s precious wild spaces.
Taking a canoe up river and hiking into the depths of the Cloud Forest, our colleagues were struck by the beauty of the Chocó and touched the hospitality of the people who call the region home. Inspired by the extraordinary efforts that our friends make to harvest their cacao, we want to redouble our efforts in the future to help communities like Marjorie’s to make the very most out of their crop. By providing farmers across this incredible region with extra training, material support and other new opportunities to develop their businesses and expand their respective revenue streams, we can help to foster economic growth and sustainable development across a region that sorely needs both.
Ending their time in this incredible region with a meeting with many of the local farmers of the area, Sara and Andres’ were even able to sign an agreement that enshrined our and our partner’s shared commitment to responsible, ecologically friendly cacao farming in writing. Travelling down to Quito shortly after, before making their way to another of Ecuador’s beautiful chocolate producing regions, Sara and Andres’ journey has only just begun. If you’d like to read more about their adventure, we’ll have plenty more for you to read in the following days!