Five years ago, I went to Ecuador for the first time to volunteer on a childhood malnutrition survey. Since then, I have returned several times to help address other problems–like water quality issues and improve river access to the village for the indigenous Chachi people who live by the Cayapas River in northern Ecuador. Numbering only about 5,000, the Chachi are marginalized and poor and eke out a living by subsistence agriculture and fishing. We want to work together in partnership to build a chocolate cooperative to produce and export their single-source chocolate.
During my many visits as I worked alongside the Chachi, I learned that cacao is the main source of income for everyone that in their communities. However, because they lacked a facility to properly ferment and dry the cacao, they were forced to rely on middlemen to sell their product. The reliance on middlemen combined with a poorly developed market resulted in a continued cycle of poverty. We took action by building a new drying structure and encouraging the villagers to participate in government-sponsored training on production techniques to improve their skills.