In 2011, I returned from a 2.5-month trip to South America during which I sourced for cacao in Peru, Ecuador and Brazil. The most fruitful connection came from a little town close to the northern coast of Peru.
It started off as an adventure, looking for a newly-made Peruvian friend's long lost uncle he hadn't seen for 25 years. Uncle Pancho lives in a little town of 2,000 that survives on an inter-cropped, agro-forestry system of cacao and banana. Within 20 minutes of arriving at this town, we had tracked him down. He welcomed us and invited us to sleep at his house. We also met Cassandra, the only Peace Corps volunteer for many miles, whose job it was to help the town increase cacao sales. The next morning we took a tour of the cacao fields and operations.
The next step
I am now working with Cassandra on importing 180kg of Peruvian cacao. The money goes directly to the farmers in this newly-formed cooperative. I am the first person to order directly and it is a win-win for both parties. The cacao beans are good quality, organic and fair trade.
Hawaiian bean supply continues to be an issue for the present, but the next few years look very promising. More farmers are committing to grow larger cacao crops. We are leasing a property and have been working long hours to construct a chocolate factory to produce thousands of bars per month to supply restaurants and supermarkets.