Newsletter - Asháninka cocoa growers report record production levels for 2013
The Asháninka cocoa and coffee association Kemito Ene (cocoa of the Ene River) which represents 200 Asháninka farmers achieved a production of 18 tonnes of cocoa during 2013 – seven tonnes more than the previous year.
The creation of Kemito Ene forms part of an ongoing three-year project to support indigenous Asháninka communities in the Ene River Valley in Peru improve their income and living standards through improving the production of traditional crops, and supporting these communities to become self-reliant. Previously, the sale of cocoa by communities was done through middlemen, which often resulted in communities receiving lower prices for their crops due to lack of knowledge of pricing and weighing of their cocoa, and often being cheated into parting with their crops for an unfair price. The creation of Kemito Ene – the Asháninkas' own Cocoa Association – allows for the communities in the project area to control their own production and sale, resulting in improved techniques and incomes for the indigenous peoples in this region.
When Kemito Ene was created in 2010, production was at just 1.5 tonnes and this level of increase has been possible thanks to the continued technical support that Central Asháninka del Río Ene, (CARE), The Rainforest Foundation UK’s (RFUK’s) local partner in Peru, provides the farmers.
The overall goal of the project is for cocoa production to become a secure and stable source of income for Asháninka families that also helps maintain the forest environment.
Four specialised cocoa technicians are working very closely with the farmers, especially with the women and apply specific methodologies adapted for the cultural reality of the Ene River communities. They use a “field schools” approach to –provide interactive learning opportunities for the farmers and impart their experiences and knowledge in order to promote better agricultural practices for their crops.
RFUK’s Peru and the Andean Amazon Programme Co-ordinator, Aldo Soto, visited the Asháninka communities in December 2013 and found that Asháninka farmers were really committed with their cocoa plots and were confident they will have a ‘Good Life’ (a common vision for the Asháninka) through sustainable cocoa production.
“You can easily see that the production will continue growing. Their incomes are increasing and they have been able to cover the cost of some of the necessities of everyday life. Some of them have improved their houses, others are reinvesting in more tools for their farms. Many of them are planning to open new plots -the Asháninka farmer only uses a quarter of hectare or half of hectare for agriculture, so the impact on the forest is quite low,” he said.
CARE is actively working with the Asháninka communities to plan the land use in their territory, in order to define cocoa expansion zones in the best suitable areas.
Pedro Chinchicama, is a father to three boys and three girls from the Boca Anapate community, and said he uses the income from his plot to buy notebooks for the school, some clothes and tools to work his plot.
“I try to save a little bit for emergencies, although it is very hard. Still, I am happy with Kemito Ene and I would like to increase my production so I can make improvements in my house,” Pedro said.
- Although the cocoa production has increased by 1600 percent since 2010, the quality remains at ’72 per cent fermentation’. It is expected that in 2014 -with the already built rotary fermentation boxes- the quality will increase considerably.
- 82 per cent of Asháninka farmers currently participate in the project. This has grown from 77 per cent to 91 per cent in the last three months, which shows a greater interest from producers, better coordination from CARE and a better performance of the technicians.
- The technical team has a female technician who is working closer to women on the post-harvest activities. This need was identified in the interviews made to women beneficiaries at the beginning of the project, whom expressed certain discomfort when attending to field schools-at that time only leaded by male technicians.