Cocoa: a source of income and new perspectives for the indigenous community

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“When we want and believe, we go after it to make the dream come true. We are excited to increasingly improve the quality of cocoa here, counting on the support and training we are receiving”, summarizes José Mopiraneme Suruí, chief of the Mauira village.

As one of the leaders of the Paiter Suruí people, from the Sete de Setembro Indigenous Land (TI) in the state of Rondônia, Mopiraneme has participated in training programs to strengthen cocoa production in her community. The product has been a bet as an alternative source of income for families with the increase in market interest in the raw material for chocolate.

Indigenous people in the village started working with cocoa in 2015, with the support of Forest Trends, but a fire destroyed the plantation. Only a few feet remained, which were later used to remove new seeds. This work, which began with Mopiraneme and 12 other producers from the Paiter Suruí people, was part of the design process of what would become the Nossa Floresta, Nossa Casa – Mosaico Tupi project.  

“A few years ago, my community had no support. The help of Forest Trends, with material and training, and Ceplac gives us encouragement. We have a vision of the future to continue with the cultivation”, adds Mopiraneme. The Executive Committee of the Cacao Crop Plan (Ceplac) is the body linked to the Brazilian government, which aims to support the development of the production chain.

Originating in the Amazon, native cocoa has sensory (organoleptic) properties, which are specific characteristics of pure substances and foods, and can be a great differential for the final product. In addition, it has helped to preserve the forest and served to reforest degraded areas, with the implementation of Agroforestry Systems. 

The fruit grows attached to the trunk of the cocoa tree, and harvesting is done manually with the help of a cocoa pruner (a specific tool to cut the plant). The fruit almond is the raw material for the production of chocolates. 

“We are seeking to value sustainable chains in indigenous communities, which guarantee the conservation of the forest and a source of income for the residents. One of our goals is to strengthen the governance of these chains and help put the products on the market”, says Carlos Silva, advisor at Forest Trends. 

According to Silva, the proposal is to expand the scope of training in the cocoa chain to other TIs, such as Rio Branco. “We also want to involve young people in this process”, he says.

Environmental engineer Cairã Andrade, from Forest Trends, recalls that the action has also sought to involve companies to facilitate the access of sustainable products to the market, valuing the value paid to traditional producers – one of the pillars of Nossa Floresta. 

In this case, the involvement is with De Mendes Chocolates Amazônicos, a company created by chocolatier César De Mendes, which works with cacao native to the region and partners with local producers and traditional communities. Born in Macapá, the chocolatier is the son of a quilombola mother and a riverside father. A strategic commercial partner, De Mendes is involved in the process of training cocoa producers Paiter Suruí, within the scope of the Nossa Floresta, Nossa Casa project.

In addition to De Mendes Chocolates Amazônicos, ICGT-FT has been establishing partnerships with the private sector, seeking to diversify the access of indigenous economic initiatives to differentiated markets, such as the case of the European fine chocolate company Original Beans. 

Next steps

Mopiraneme says he intends to seek funds to purchase an irrigation system to maintain the quality of production.

Through the project, Forest Trends also foresees as one of the stages the construction of structures for fermentation and drying of the almonds.

More information about FT at https://www.forest-trends.org/ and about De Mendes in  https://www.demendes.com.br/