By Laura Bechard, Chocolate Supply Chain Coordinator, Equal Exchange
A steep drop down from the Andes mountains, entering into the Amazon Rainforest basin, two cooperatives just 20 miles apart, simultaneously formed parallel visions. Both the Producer Association of Santa Rosa de Chiriari (APROSAROCH) and the Producer Association of Sonomoro Naylamp (APANS) were founded in 2002 as fruit co-ops, producing bananas and oranges, respectively, for the Peruvian internal market. Around ten years ago, the volatile market took a swing for the worse. The co-ops were unsure if they would be able to continue working in fresh fruits and were forced to look for alternative crops. Both found hope in cacao and have been dedicated to its commercialization ever since.
APROSAROCH and APANS beans are used in chocolate chips blended with beans from two San Martin co-operatives: Acopagro and Oro Verde. In June, two members from Equal Exchange and one from our Canadian sister co-op, La Siembra visited with these co-ops and many of their farmer members. A common theme from our conversations was the challenges around climate change- more specifically the difficulty in predicting the harvest cycle. The wet season is becoming wetter and the dry season is becoming drier. Floods and droughts are becoming more and more common.
Javier Perez Campos of APROSAROCH and Dee Walls of EE sample the cacao fruit
For example, last winter 2017, Peru experienced well above average rainfall in the rainy season. This excess precipitation affected the co-ops with waterlogged soils that delayed flowering and cocoa pod production on the trees and washed out roads that delayed the transport of cacao beans to external markets. This year again, the cocoa harvest is a bit behind schedule, but farmers are learning to adapt with different tree pruning and compost techniques on the farm.
Agronomist for APROSAROCH Agusto Saldania Oxolón told us of the challenges of climate change on the farm level
At the same time, warmer weather has changed the climates of nearby mountain foothills, such as in the nearby Llaylla district. Cool, high altitude micro-climates once suited for coffee, are now warming enough to be suitable for cacao. The prevalence of the devastating effects from coffee leaf rust have further encouraged farmers to make the switch to cacao. APROSAROCH and APANS cooperative leaders noted that they have increased in cocoa farmer members from these once coffee-growing regions.
General Manager of APANS Luis Rafael cutting open a specialty variety cacao pod on Don Emiliano's farm
Our visit highlighted that the hard work and dedication to cacao is at the core of these co-operatives. It is inspiring to know that APROSAROCH and APANS are working closely with their famers and technical teams to come up with solutions to mitigate the effects of climate change.