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  HOME | Colombia (Click here for more)

Cacao Sweetens Colombian Peace Process

TABLON DULCE, Colombia – Even before the Colombian government opened talks with FARC rebels, farmers in this village in the southwestern coastal province of Tumaco decided to replace coca plants with cacao trees in a bid to escape conflict and criminal entanglements.

In 2011, the elders of this Afro-Colombian community of 728, ensconced in mangroves and accessible only by sea, concluded that growing coca for processing into cocaine had brought them more problems than benefits and they decided to return to traditional crops.

“Six years ago this was all coca, illegal crops,” Afrodisio España told EFE while gesturing to a cluster of cacao trees.

Besides the violence that accompanied the presence of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), who controlled access to the crops, Tablon Dulce residents suffered from the government’s aerial fumigation of coca fields with strong pesticides.

“We began to realize that coca had not been our strength. It’s a crop brought in as an alternative to earn a little extra money,” España said, adding that the turn to illicit crops coincided with a fall in cacao prices that devastated families who were already poor.

The Tablon Dulce growers sell their harvests to Chocolates Tumaco, a foundation comprising seven community councils that receives financial support from the government’s Colombia Responde program.

Tumaco now has 14,000 hectares (more than 34,000 acres) planted with cacao trees, generating annual production of nearly 4,000 tons.

While most of Tablon Dulce’s output remains in Colombia, about 10 percent is exported to Europe and Chocolates Tumaco is preparing to ship 100 tons to Italian chocolate maker Ferrero.

 

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