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20/01/2019

Small changes, big revolutions: the impact of cocoa

UPDATED ON 15/03/2022

How an initiative in Necocli, Urabá, became a snowball. The story of how we learned that environmental development, and sustainability, go hand-to-hand with culture.

Defining a diverse model for social innovation for the chocolate industry

 

YouTube video

 

This story began 11 years ago. Against all odds we arrived in Necocli, Colombia, to cultivate our first cocoa forest. For years this has been a region that has carried the burden of violence and all that this implies. Poverty, inequality, lack of education, loss of meaning of life, and hope.

Upon its arrival, Luker decided not only to have the best Fine Flavour Cocoa crop in the country. But also to become a model of sustainability where people are the center: its ultimate goal.

The 7 years of positive impacts on the neighboring communities of the 550-hectare forest were proof of that. In 2017, one of the most benefited districts from the project took the initiative to celebrate the company’s historic arrival in their lives through a festival. All this hand-in-hand with The Chocolate Dream team.

Caribia is a province where neither the State nor other private companies had reached. They had not celebrated any festivities in years. It had no patron saint’s day, and The Cocoa Festival was the best opportunity to start a new tradition.

2017 marked the beginning of this milestone. Above all for the Afro-Caribbean, Afro-Chocó, and indigenous communities. The celebration was a success, and today it is only compared to the arrival of electricity 40 years ago.

They had to continue with the tradition. Turned it into the territory’s heritage. The celebration of the cocoa harvest, and its effects on the lives of the locals.

And so it was that in 2018, we decided to do it again. We planned it together with Luker, the locals, the leaders, and the Luker Foundation. Defining what will be the most awaited festival of the year.

 

Festival of cultural cocoa

Astonishing ideas came from diversity and inclusion

This planning has involved great revolutions based on events that seemed irrelevant at first. Such as the definition of the agenda of activities. Together we meet to define timetables, people, allied budgets, and activities.

During the process of consensus and dissertations, we discovered the importance of cultural, social, empathic, and respectful dialogue involving different beliefs.

The community’s first proposal included loads of topics. Such as cockfights, beauty pageants, motorcycle tours, cultural presentations, gastronomic samples, dances, songs. Luker proposed photography contests, craft workshops, chocolate tastings, and other things that represented us.

 



In both proposals, there were enormous coincidences that made us feel like we had a single dream, a single purpose. But at the same time, as is natural when cultures meet, there were differences in some themes. And as we have always done, we decided to start conversing to find common ground.

We had two themes that distanced us. Cockfighting, and the beauty pageant. Both are traditional in Colombian culture. So we began to talk about these issues.

From the company, we proposed to omit the cockfights. This was to generate environmental, and animal awareness. We also proposed that, instead of celebrating women’s beauty, we should acknowledge their talent. Also their role in the more than 5 ethnic groups that live in the same territory.

Our respectful stance on deep-rooted culture was that over time we would change beliefs and behaviours. The Cocoa Festival could reflect a joint way of looking at life. A space where people, animals, nature, and culture deserved the greatest respect.

 

Cocoa festival for children

 

Dialogue as an agent of change

Far from generating discord, our proposals were immediately understood. We also saw how these positions were already incorporated into the community. First on an individual level. The Cocoa Festival became a vehicle that helped to put certain topics on the table.

In a 3-hour long conversation, more than one and a half hours of planning to reflect on the beauty pageant. The conversation, led by the community, turned around the great talent of their women.

 

Also, the change in understanding the role of women; their importance in the culture; and the differences between one ethnic group and another in that understanding.

There was a reflection on what it means to put a young woman on a catwalk in a territory that had been sexist for years. The risk it represents, and the message it sends to children.

It was incredible to see and hear in the voices of those who are sometimes considered uneducated or behind in world trends. As they wish to contribute to gender equality. Women’s empowerment. Human rights education, and how they can use the festival to install a ritual for the creation of values. To reinterpret beliefs. To celebrate the plenty and opportunities that a product, cocoa, has brought into their lives.

The same thing happened with the cockfight. The consensus around this issue was very fast and we all decided to highlight values of care for the environment that this practice does not reflect.

We left not only with a new agenda, with competitions for talented women, and with environmental tours. But also, with the firm conviction that these actions that sometimes do not seem to have as much impact as a festival, in the end, are nothing more than the manifestation of the reinterpretation of the culture of a community, and its encounter with other beliefs and communities.

We saw a change that is not easy to witness in a country of traditions. The 2018 Cocoa Festival was a tribute to farmers, women, animals, and nature.

 

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