Great Wilderness is commited to work with Fonmsoeam, a small scale cocoa farmers association to help alleviate poverty in Ecuador through a sustainable, market based project. Our major goal is to increases the finantial benefits to farmers growing the world's finest cocoa and support conservation of the Mache Chindul Ecological Reserve (REMACH). Chocolates markets around the world recongnize the Fino Aroma or Cacao Nacional as teh finest beans in the world for producing chocolate.
FONMSOEAM (Federation Organization of Black and Mestizos Small Scale Cacao Producer from Esmeraldas, Atacames and Muisne) is an organization created in 2000, composed by 400 small scale cacao farmers living in 25 surrounding communities of the REMACH in the Esmeraldas province of Ecuador. This area is not only known worldwide for growing the exquisite native Cacao Fino de Aroma (Teobroma cacao), but also for being part of the globally important biodiversity region, the Choco-Manabi conservation corridor. This data contrast with the national statistical analysis that clearly establish Esmeraldas as the province with the countrys, highest deforestation rate of 9,567,5 ha per year. These dramatic socio-economic indicators are also reflected in the dismal state of basic urban infrastructure; 80% of the population does not have access to basic services such as electricity, road, fresh water and hygienic services including waste disposal and being the most depressed region in the Republic.
Although FONMSOEAM is a legally established organization, it hasnt been able to reach full market potential due to deficient organizational capacity, insufficient post harvest infrastructure, inadequate technology, and lack of education. In order to remedy the situation, we propose an integrative solution that brings together small-scale farmers, local financial institutions, industry professionals and grass roots conservation organizations in an alternative to unsustainable economic activities such as logging, cattle ranching and annual crops that lead to biodiversity loss without alleviating poverty.
Specific objectives include strengthening FONMSOEAM organizational capacity to improve collective distribution and commercialization of raw cacao, improved post-harvest treatment of cacao to receive better prices; community based monitoring of cacao plantations; improve technical assistance; exploitation of sub-products currently discarded; and creation of a national and international market image for environmentally friendly cacao and chocolate products.
Great WIlderness on the Go:
VISITING FARMS IN MUISNE
Great Wilderness visited cacao farms in Muisne and participated in a seminar on tree pruning. Coupling our experience with the local technician was a wonderful way to introduce ourselves to the farmers and created an important bond with these stewards of the Mache-Chindul Ecological Reserve. Many of these farm families have lived in the area for hundreds of years.
WORKSHOPS AT FONMSOEM
Soraya, Romina, Maria and Eloy got right down to work writing a grant for technical assistance at the drying and fermentation center. Building capacity and expertise within farmers associations is a major component for increasing income. Increased income means less deforestation, healthier lifestyles and stronger communities.
POST HARVEST ACTIVITIES
Cacao fresco arrives at the facility from the farms by truck and is inspected for quality and cleanliness, weighed and carefully recorded as to origin by lot number. The bins on the right are for fermentation, a four to five day process before drying (seen in the foreground. Think of the many people responsible for bringing this wonderful product to market for our enjoyment. The list is long and in the end all of us are dependent on the health of the land for chocolate in its purest form. Hybrids and clones have become a huge part of the equation due in large part to the devastating deforestation of forests where cacao naturally occurs.
BIANNUAL FARMERS MEETING
Great Wilderness was invited to participate in the biannual farmers meeting at FONMSOEM. We were pleased to introduce ourselves to over a hundred farmers and offer our help. These families have a long history in the area and it was a humbling experience to get to know them and here their stories of the land and the struggles they have been through to improve their lot and protect their environment.
Great Wilderness recently donated funds to allow fifty FONMSOEAM cacao farmers to begin the organic certification process for their product. Certified organic cocoa producers are most likely to obtain better prices than conventional cocoa usually ranging from US$ 100 to US$ 300 per ton.
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