With little knowledge of the production of chocolates when they started, the 18 Ecuadorian farmers who founded the Association of Production of Cacao and Derived Aromas of the South (ASOPROMAS) four years ago have had to learn how to produce gourmet-quality artisanal products on-the-go.
“The first step was to establish ourselves as a group and then grow. Like always, we needed to adjust and change many things to get it right,” explained Marta Lituma, who handles the association’s marketing, including promoting its top chocolate products, Tu Kakao and el Cujeñito. “The secret has been to work as a group and divide responsibilities.”
The four-year journey has been helped along the way by funding received from the Inter-American Foundation for training, chocolate production, and for the construction of a building for processing.
Currently, the associates buy at least 25 quintals of cacao in pulp, which helps dozens of local families. When processing of the cacao is complete, it translates into the sale of 100 bars of chocolate per month. The chocolates are placed in 10 points of sale in different communities of the region of Zamora, Chinchipe in Ecuador.
The work of the 18 partners has been studied in detail recently by representatives of the Costa Rican cooperative known as Cacao Afro, who visited to exchange knowledge and interact with these producers from the Ecuadorian Amazon. The Costa Rican delegation took particular note of the productive division of labor used by ASOPROMAS in which some associates dry, others toast, others make the chocolate, and others sell, facilitating the production and sale process.
ASOPROMAS continues to grow and is emerging as an important international exporter. “We continue to work with passion and dedication to be the best we can. We are convinced that together we can excel,” concluded Lituma.
The Costa Rican group of chocolate producers during their visit to the ASOPROMAS processing plant.
For two weeks, we are publishing a series of articles about cacao entitled “Food of the Gods” about how the IAF’s community partners are adopting organic production, learning to commercialize their cacao products, improving their livelihoods, and sharing their knowledge. The series title draws from the Latin term for cacao, Theobroma, which means "food of the gods" and speaks to how cacao’s legendary derivative – chocolate – is beloved across the globe.
* Andreas Cordero, is a Journalist and Photographer member of Cooperativa de Productores de Cacao y Servicios Múltiples del Caribe Sur R.L. - Coopecacao Afro.