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The Ashaninka Story

For the full in-depth story download the detailed PDF here - Asháninka Cacao

Collaborating with indigenous growers is core to our philosophy. We use raw cacao grown by the Ashaninka community of the Peruvian Amazon, the largest indigenous community in Peru. This is vital in their quest to build a sustainable life for themselves and sustainable use of the rainforest.

The Ashaninka have lived in the central rainforests for over 5,000 years. Sadly the 20th Century saw them having to defend their territory from terrorists, drug trafficker and loggers, which decimated the community and led to ravaging of the forests.

The Rainforest Foundation, based in the UK, has been supporting the community to help re-establish the Ashaninka land rights, enabling them to protect their homes and stop the destruction of the 100,000 hectares of rainforest that they are custodians of.

The Foundation has helped fund projects to enable them to protect traditional methods of living in relationship with the forest, and return to growing viable crops native to the area; specifically coffee and, importantly for us at Loving Earth, cacao, in a regenerative agroforestry system.

The Ashaninka use skills handed down from generation to generation as they grow and harvest the indigenous Amazonico Criollo Cacao, the heirloom beans of the region, as part of the co-operative Kemito Ene. This prized cacao is at a premium due to the rise in the planting of hybridized beans that produce a higher yield and are more resistant to pests and weather, however the flavour and quality are also sacrificed. The beans are very different and so are sorted out from one another, as some trees have grown due to seed spread and pollination. The intention being that the heirloom beans are able to achieve a higher price, more reflective of their quality and depth of flavour.

Kemito Ene (Kemito meaning cacao and Ene the river on which it grows) is based in Quiteni, a four hour canoe trip up the River Ene, we met with them in 2014 after buying cacao from them through another co-operative based in Satipo.

Sadly The Rainforest Foundations’ Funding has been cut, leaving the community to become established as a business on their own.

Wanting to support this community to be self-sustaining, we started from the very beginning, setting up the basics like a bank account to accept funds. We then could go about helping them with their Organic and Fair Trade certifications.

In our first year of trade we bought 10 tonne of the aromatic Amazonico cacao, with 40 tonne in the second year and 60 tonne last year. To enable the community to reach their goal of being a flourishing export business, they need to sell 250 tonne, which we hope we will be able to buy in its entirety.

Presently, we are working alongside The Rainforest Foundation and Althelia Climate Fund (ACF) to set up a REDD+ project with the Ashaninka to harvest the carbon along with the cacao.

ACF has made great advances in establishing large scale REDD+ projects in the Peruvian Amazon, using principally cacao as the mechanism to preserve large areas of vulnerable protected forest. It operates by engaging the indigenous and local communities living in the buffer zones around the protected areas to grow cacao and agree to protect the adjacent forest.

These communities are engaged in enhancing the buffer zone through planting a bio-diverse agroforestry system that provides a stream of income.

They also receive another stream of income through agreeing to protect the adjacent forest through the harvesting of Voluntary Carbon Units (carbon credits). This model facilitates a large-scale reduction in emissions through the preservation of the forest that would otherwise be destroyed. It also empowers the local and indigenous communities with their own economic activity that is both environmentally and culturally sensitive.

We are so passionate about this project because it helps achieve all the things dearest to our hearts.  The Ashaninka people harvest the wild Cacao growing in the understory of the Amazon forest that they have been custodians of for generations.  This means that we get access to an amazing completely unhybridized aromatic cacao that is truly unique.  It also means that the Ashaninka people can conserve their traditional cultural practices in the face of encroaching modern society.

Every chocolate bar sold helps us to get the Ashaninka community closer to creating a way of life that honours the people, process and planet.

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