By Claire Lubke
In Peru, inclusive dialogues inspire and provide resources for young people and women to pursue careers cultivating high-quality varieties of cacao.
In most cacao growing regions of Peru, cacao farming isn’t widely considered a viable option among young men and women. In fact, a recent study by the Fine Flavor Cacao Project (FFC) shows that the average age of cacao farmers is 56/54 (men/women) in the Piura department, on the dry coast in northwestern Peru; and 56/52 in La Convencion, Cuzco department in the humid tropics of southeastern Peru —home to cacao Blanco de Piura and cacao Chuncho, respectively. As a result, the FFC project recognized the need to address inter-generational succession alongside its mission of women and youth inclusion across the fine flavor cacao value chain. To this end, the FFC project began a series of dialogues with local youth to identify training and mentorship needs that focus on the role of these groups in the future of fine flavor cacao.
On July 24th, the FFC project hosted the first dialogue of its kind as part of the virtual 163rd anniversary celebration of La Convencion province, home to cacao Chuncho. The program was entitled “Conversation with Youth: Successful Experiences of Young Entrepreneurs in Fine Flavor Cacao.” and featured speakers Jan Schubert, Rosaura Laura, and Gorky Tupayachi. Over 300 participants (average age 25 years) listened in as each of the presenters provided a unique perspective from their successful careers in fine flavor cacao. Jan Schubert, a German-born cacao conservationist and explorer, emphasized the interest from high-end, foreign markets and the possibility to develop them in ways that fortified local communities. Rosaura Laura, a trained agronomist and the head of her family’s chocolate company, spoke of the fulfillment she received from uplifting her own community as well as to the particular challenges women face in both agriculture and entrepreneurship. Finally, Gorky Tupayachi, whose family has been farming cacao Chuncho for several generations, explained how the traditional cultivation of this crop has provided value to his community and career, as he is now able to share his multigenerational expertise in growing, harvesting, and processing techniques.
The feedback from participants was extremely positive. Pilar, a young entrepreneur who sells cacao Chuncho in a touristic town, expressed that: “…it’s motivating to see the success of my fellow Peruvians (in fine flavor cacao)” and Daniel, who said, “These experiences are inspiring and I believe that we are not going to abandon the cultivation of our cacao Chuncho.”
In addition to inspiration, the dialogue provided concrete information on the educational and professional opportunities in fine flavor cacao, which starts with the renewed dignity of cacao farmers. With people like Rosaura and Gorky as examples, farmers are being recognized as specialized professionals who practice sustainable land management and constantly integrate new information from scientific and community sources. Additionally, there is an upcoming of opportunities for farmers, but also for agronomists, climate scientists, artisans, logisticians, marketers, policy makers, and entrepreneurs.
As Schubert emphasized, there are unique considerations for fine flavor cacao that aren’t relevant for commodity cacao, which result in opportunities for youth and women to acquire specialized skills in areas such as cultivar selection, drying, fermentation, and nursery management. FFC researchers were particularly encouraged by a comment by a participant named César, who exclaimed:
“I want to learn more. My wish is to continue valuing and promoting the best fine cacao—Chuncho from Cusco.”
An inclusive future
For FFC project leaders, addressing inter-generational succession is about ensuring that all young people, regardless of gender or background, are able to fully appreciate fine flavor cacao as a promising option—an option that integrates exciting global markets with sustainable environmental practices, all while uplifting the livelihoods of their families and communities. Layneker, a student from the Intercultural University of Quillabamba, summarized this rewarding role when she explained:
“My parents have five hectares of cacao and the experiences shared (in this conversation) will allow me to support them.”
A second dialogue will be scheduled before the end of the year, with an emphasis on addressing feedback from the first dialogue and discussing the role of technology in the future of cacao farming. In the future, the FFC project will also focus on mentorship opportunities for women and youth, so that young people will be able to equally access resources, overcome obstacles, and build confidence in their early careers.
 The FFC project (2017-2021), led by the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, has been working to overcome the environmental and economic challenges of producing FFC in Peru’s most exceptional native cacao-producing regions. The FFC is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The intergenerational dialogues on cacao were organized in collaboration with the Intercultural University of Quillabamba, and funded by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.
For more information on the dialogues or to participate in these initiatives, please contact Evert Thomas (E.Thomas@cgiar.org), the FFC project leader.