Choco GuateMaya

Cacao - Food of the Gods

Alta Verapaz, Projects.

CHISEC Municipality ASODAJ and SEPOC II

Organization. The communities are enthusiastic about being involved. Between 2009 and 2010, participation has risen from 44 to 60 people in ASODAJ ; and for SEPOC II it has risen from 10 participants to 23. To date 25,000 cacao trees have been planted in Asodaj and Sepoc II, which indicates commitment and dedication. There will be a cacao harvests in four years. There has been interest from US companies, e.g. Amano Artisan Chocolates in purchasing all the cacao produced by Just Chocolate Project. APROCAV has 18 registered organizations, more than 1,000 adults and approximately five children per family. It produces totally organic Criollo-mix cacao and has 350 hectares with 10-12 year old cacao trees, plus new production of 250 hectares of 2-3.5 year old cacao trees. Presently, it yields approximately 1,200 quintales (100 pound sacks). (APROCAV was fully supported by PRODEVER, but this will end by the end of 2011.

As we all know, the Maya culture is directly connected to cacao in various ways. “Whether consumed as an esteemed drink or exchanged as money, cacao (Theobroma cacao) was one of the most important plant products of ancient Mesoamerica. The seeds derived from the pod of the cacao tree were widely used as currency and John Lloyd Stephens reported that cacao was used as currency as late as the mid-19th c. in Yucatan.” (Cited in ChocoGuateMaya.com from An Illustrated Dictionary of The Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya, by Mary Miller and Karl Taube).

The type of cacao being grown by the cooperatives is a high quality and sought after variety known as cacao Criollo. It is a sought after y for its flavor and is of interest to the scientific community as it is self pollinating (only the “Chol Kin” heritage Criollo is self pollinating) and therefore more easily genetically mapped, with less genetic variation through generations.

Cacao has traditionally been very important in Mayan culture. The communities have not focused on commercializing their cacao due to a lack of viable market. Intermediaries set the price and retain most of the profits. ChocoGuateMaya should be able to link them directly with markets, thereby eliminating the middle-man, leaving more money in the hands of the farmers.

Beyond the planting of cacao trees (25,000 of which have been planted to date), the community members have repeatedly stressed that, beyond inputs such as trees, they seek technical assistance (which we sourced out and connected with FHIA) and funding, as well as direct access to markets.

 

Beneficiaries

Beneficiary Types (Direct/Indirect)

# Adults

# Children

Female

Male

Female

Male

1) e.g. Subsistence farmers

e.g. Direct

e.g. 4

 

 

e.g. 2

2) 85 families Asodaj + Sepoc II

Direct

200

100

300

100

3) 400 families APROCAV

Direct

500

500

850

1,000

 

 

According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Guatemala’s national poverty rate is 75%; 91% of its indigenous population is rated in extreme poverty; education is 10%; and health care is 58.5%. Alta Verapaz’ indigenous population is over 89%.

Coordination with other development actors in Guatemala (NGOs, cooperatives)

Aproba Sank is an educational NGO and Nuevas Raíces is an NGO concerned with cacao and reforestation. Our Just Chocolate project in Chisec consists of two cooperatives: ASODAJ and SEPOC II. The cooperatives in Cahabón are part of the APROCAV initiative.

The subsistent farmers we intend to help live in remote areas and speak different Mayan languages (few speak Spanish).  Some of these villagers grow cacao but mostly for their own use. One very positive factor about these farmers is that the cacao from these areas will be organic. We hope by working to create co-operatives and giving them encouragement and advice, we will be able to help them break the cycle of poverty.  The goal being that in the end they will be able to help themselves.
 
We seek to help cacao farmers in Guatemala by organizing projects to produce organic cacao for an export market.  The proposed solution has many layers including agricultural education. We plan to establish two different pilot projects in cacao growing areas in Guatemala. 
 
In this pilot project the organization will try to educate the farmers on the benefits of organic cacao production (the current market value of organic cacao being higher than the price of regular cacao), and assist in the development of fair and transparent management structure.
 
Other aspects that will be addressed:
 
  • Research the success of other similar projects
  • Survey sites to compile information about quality, type and production capacity in each region
  • Build organizational management systems for groups of about ten farmers, based on similar projects
  • Build educational awareness of organic cacao production through the designing and distribution of videos, DVD and other multimedia educational products
  • Establish linkages with buyers in domestic and specially foreign markets
  • Assist with community development goals
  • Secure a fair price and profit percentages for these farming co-operative members
  • Assist with fairtrade arrangements.

The objective will be achieved with substantial funding; however, it is vital that the grassroots support is forthcoming.  This will enable us to meet the ongoing expenses, but more importantly, it will demonstrate that you are interested in our work. See: "Make a contribution".

The municipality of Chisec is comprised of 50% hillside and 50% relatively flat land. The climate is tropical and humid. The proximity of the Sierra Madre Mountains to the west ensures significant rainfall throughout the year. The combination of soil, altitude and climate make this area ideal for the cultivation of cacao.
 
Chisec is the county seat of a county that goes by the same name. Traditionally isolated, Chisec is located in the northern part of the Alta Verapaz department. It has over 200 communities and a population of almost 100,000. Dripping with a wide variety of lush, green tropical vegetation, Chisec was once nicknamed "the land before time". The scenery is some of the most beautiful in Guatemala, with large karst towers looming over primary forest and beautiful, naturally green rivers. Over ninety percent of the population is of the ethnic Q'eqchi' Mayan origin and continue to speak their native language. Although the men stopped using traditional dress years ago, the women still wear traditional corte, a woven skirt, and huipil, a blouse that is either woven, crocheted, or made of loose material. Daily meals consist of tortillas made by hand and cooked over the open flame with a bowl of beans or vegetables and occasionally meat. Families here are large, often having more than five children.
Chisec
Since 2009 ChocoGuateMaya has helped theChisec Organizations to plant 25,000 cocoa trees in there small farms, 100 family's are included, There farms are inspected periodicly by our foremen, he sends us reports monthly, including pictures in the reports.