Back in November 2017 Ben, his wife Franziska and son Gabriel decided to support the launch of our Nativo Project. Through our crowdfunding campaign on Wemakeit they booked our trip to the Alto Huayabamba and became thus some of our very first chocolate fans to visit the Choba Choba farmers and co-founders in Peru! They are also the first Nativo Project supporters to witness how the project is evolving on the ground …
1. How did you hear about the Native Project and why did you decide to support it?
Last year I got a great birthday present from my wife – a Choba Choba Chocolate subscription. We had both been following Choba Choba since 2016, having visited one of their popup shops in Zürich where we’d even had the chance to meet some of the Farmers first-hand. I can’t remember if we first saw the Wemakeit campaign mentioned in a leaflet in one of the subscription boxes or whether it was on Facebook. When my wife saw the project she came to me with huge excitement saying that we’d have this once in a life time opportunity to stay with the cocoa farmers. Knowing that the project was fundamentally a good thing, analysing and cataloguing different cacao Nativos varieties to help their preservation and protection, we decided to support it.
2. The Native Project is still young, not even one year old, but a lot of things are already happening in Peru. What did you see in the Alto Huayabamba, how is the project evolving?
The Nativo Project is helping document the flavours of the different Nativo varieites. We had a fun interactive session organised by Mateo who has been employed through the project to catalogue the different varieties and get an understanding of the huge variety of complex and different flavours (and smells) they have. You have to be as discerning as an oenophile (wine-taster) to appreciate them all. We could see how the team are making great inroads into documenting them. We heard from the farmers about how their hope is to make a truly unique “Alto Huyabamba flavour” which they can show to the world.
It’s sad to see that in recent years a butterfly has started invading the trees and planting its eggs on the pods which can lead to much of the crop having to be thrown away. Through the Nativo Project it was encouraging to see that the farmers have discovered that certain trees are resistant to the plague and so their hope is to help overcome the invasion.
Apart from that we witnessed how Choba Choba’s overall farming and indeed business methods are evolving since the establishment of Choba Choba. More importantly we also saw how it has encouraged younger farmers back to the region. For example we got to meet Cristhian (Crisho) who looks after the nursery for the Nativo trees and Jimmy, an agronomist, who showed us the organic fertiliser plant which was recently built. With the establishment of this plant the farmers can re-use their natural resources and no longer have to buy expensive fertiliser. The farmers are also developing agro-forestry where they plant other trees and plants which help nature itself support the growth of the cocoa. We also saw how through Choba Choba, international business students are working with the locals to help develop the eco-tourism industry. It’s nice to know now that our trip will not now be a once in a life time opportunity and that other people will have the chance to visit in the future.
3. On your trip to the origins of our cacao and our Chocolate Revolution what has impressed you most?
The self-determination of the locals and the way they all work together really impressed me. Despite having very limited electricity or easy transport connections they have built amazing things. For example, to build the new fermentation unit in at Pucallpillo the community flattened out a huge area to build what is a first class unit.
4. When you return to the Alto Huayabamba in 5 years, what would you most like to see there?
I would like to see the local community grow and flourish and that more farmers are able to join the revolution. Potential candidates have to pass a 1 year test period, so it’s not easy, but I fully understand that this is necessary to keep the quality of the product. It would be great if the eco-tourism industry takes off so that other people can see and experience what we did. In Santa Rosa I think they are planning to build a new fermentation plant to match that in Pucallpillo and I think there’s a planned waste disposal unit. It would be great to see these in action.
5. Do you have any funny anecdotes to share about your stay in the jungle?
On our first night in Pucallpillo we learnt that when people there celebrate their birthdays then they don’t blow out candles but have to put their face into the middle of the cake. That same night was Nicolas’, our Choba Choba guide’s birthday. (You’ll have to ask Nicolas if he has a photo.)
I really enjoyed playing chess with Oswaldo. After I made a wrong move, the smile on both our faces got bigger and bigger as he played cat and mouse with my doomed king. I suggest brushing up on your chess skills before heading to Santa Rosa.
We got to watch a couple of World Cup matches out there. Seeing the support for the Peruvian team who were playing for the first time in I think 32 years was great but, boy, you should have seen the reaction when a critical penalty was missed. Oswaldo junior had filmed it from his phone and it was fun to watch again.
We visited a fantastic set of waterfalls one day, along with the business students. Just as we drove up some river rapids one of the party got really excited and stood up in the boat to take a photo. As the boat lurched to one side it could have got really messy but we were glad to have been given life jackets before hand and could laugh about it afterwards.