What is Bioversity and what exactly do you do?
Bioversity is part of an international network of research centres specialised in agriculture and development. We study how the agricultural biodiversity of useful plants and trees can help improve the living conditions of small producers. Cocoa is one of our primary concerns. We coordinate the Cacao Net(a network focusing on the conservation of cocoa genetic resources for sustainable cocoa farming), which is active worldwide, the Cocoa of Excellence Programme (a programme that recognises the work of cocoa farmers and celebrates the diversity of cocoa flavours), and have developed a global strategy for the conservation and use of cocoa genetic resources.
What makes the Nativo project so important and interesting?
We’re all convinced that the unique genetic diversity of Peruvian cocoa can help solve numerous problems facing cocoa producers in Peru, as well as in other countries. The great diversity of cocoa in Peruvian farms results from the tremendous genetic wealth of ancient cocoa varieties, their fusion with introduced cocoas, and the active participation of cocoa producers in the process. We aim to learn more about these indigenous cocoa varieties and the producers’ efforts to conserve them. Thus we’ll be able to help producers extract more value from these cocoas both for themselves and for consumers.
What role do you play in the Nativo project? What exactly does the genetic analysis of different cocoa varieties in the Alto Huayabamba valley entail?
We integrate samples of various cocoa varieties from Choba Choba producers’ plots to our collection of Peruvian cocoas. The genetic analysis of these local varieties from the Alto Huayabamba valley will show which other cocoa varieties they are related to, and help us categorise them. It is essential to make the distinction between ancient cocoas and commercial varieties. They are part of the genetic cultural heritage, and we must learn more about their precise origin. The more knowledge we gather, the more we can put it to good use to serve consumers and cocoa producers.
What do you think about Choba Choba’s business model, which turned cocoa producers into international entrepreneurs?
We hope to see many more companies like Choba Choba. But we’re well aware that such a project takes time and requires active involvement. It is essential for consumers to favour this type of companies founded on a set of values, and which unfortunately are becoming less and less common in our society.
Dr Marleni Ramirez, PhD
Regional Representative for Central and South America