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National Chocolate Week: cocoa in Bolivia

14 October 2013

Britain is one of the world’s biggest consumers of chocolate, with each of us eating an average 10kg a year. Yet cocoa is not grown in the UK, as cocoa trees prefer warmer climates.

To mark National Chocolate Week (14-20 October), we pay tribute to the hundreds of thousands of people around the world who work hard to produce one of life’s sweetest treats. In particular, the indigenous people from the Beni region of Bolivia.

How chocolate reaches our shelves

The cocoa, or ‘cacao’ tree, is indigenous to Central and South America.  The process of growing cocoa trees to reaching our supermarket shelves is complex.

 Abraham Noza Mosua, a farmer who receives support from our partner in Bolivia explains the process:

‘We do the work bit by bit. The fruit [from the cocoa tree] matures between February and May, maybe even June for some of the last fruits.

Abraham Noza, a farmer in Bolivia   

‘When the fruit is mature it goes yellow so we open it up and take out the fruit [seed]. We leave that for 4-5 days to ferment and then lay it out to dry in the sun which takes another 4-5 days.

‘Then we’re ready to commercialise it. We go through and select the good seeds - we want them all to be big and the right shape and properly dried through.’

While the seed is ready to be sold at this point, it is still far from being the chocolate we know in the UK.

What chocolate means to farmers in the Amazon

For the indigenous Amazonian communities in Beni, cocoa is a traditional crop that has become part of their identity.

The Mayor of Baures (a town in Beni) said: ‘Chocolate is our history, it is our identity, it is our culture’. 

Despite this deep meaning, the communities have not always known the value of the crop and the huge demand for cocoa in Bolivia and overseas.

  • Chocolate is our history, it is our identity, it is our culture.’

Earning a fair living

Until recently, cocoa beans were traded for food and essentials. However, communities are now realising the potential and value of their ancient trees and with the help of our partner, CIPCA, families are setting up nurseries to grow their own saplings.

CIPCA helps farmers protect, look after and get the best from the cocoa trees. In some communities, CIPCA provides tools like machetes and rubber boots to protect people from snakes, and food for the days spent maintaining the cocoa forests.

Helping communities to thrive

A bar of pure wild Amazonian chocolate This new recognition of the value of cocoa in the Bolivian Amazon is helping communities to thrive.

The average family income has increased by 19% - mainly due to their ability to sell cocoa, and negotiate a minimum price for their crop - instead of selling it at whatever price they could get.

Growers associations have been established and are able to negotiate with national companies to provide a secure market for the farmers.

Today, with Christian Aid funding, these associations have a factory where they can process and package bars of pure cocoa for a higher price.

To view the gallery full-screen, simply press play and then select the enlarge button on the bottom right. To show the captions, select 'Show info' on the top right.

How you can help

By making a donation to Christian Aid, you can help us to continue supporting cocoa producers like Abraham.

Find out more

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