Monday, April 30, 2018

Cacao: Chocolate from the Amazon

We sell chocolate to help support our student scholarship program for indigenous youth.

The business of cacao
We also see chocolate production as a possible long-term solution to the lack of employment in indigenous communities of the Amazon.

Members of the Association of Cacao Growers of
San Francisco, Amazonas, Colombia

The director of Amazon Pueblo with a cacao seedling.
Why is it a solution?
  1. Cacao, the tree from which chocolate is made, may have originally developed in this area of the Amazon (about 400 km upriver from Leticia).  It grows very well in our area.
  2. There may soon be a world-wide chocolate shortage.  With the combination of climate change (drought) and mismanagement in chocolate producing countries, we may be seeing a chocolate shortage in the coming years.  
  3. Our region of the Amazon IS NOT forecast to have a decrease in water due to climate change.
  4. We have the water, the climate, a willing workforce, and the waterway of the Amazon River to economically transport our chocolate.
So, we have been encouraging the people in indigenous villages of the Colombian Amazon to grow cacao, the tree from which we produce chocolate.  It takes three years from planting cacao until it produces the beans from which we can make the chocolate.

The pods
The trees take about three years of growth before they produce cacao pods.  Each pod can contain up to 50 cacao beans.  During this time they need at least partial shade.  Large, old growth trees among the cacao trees are an excellent source of this shade.  Other crops like plantain may also grow along side the young trees.  Properly managed cacao plantations encourage healthy cacao and overall forest biodiversity.

The growers inspecting the trees.

Removing the seeds from the pods.

Empty pods.
After being grown in the villages the cacao beans are transported downriver to the city of Leticia, were they are processed into chocolate by Makambun Chocolates.

Cacao ready to toast

The grinder
For the future
We are thinking about the future.  We teach and help the students in indigenous villages how to plant, grow, and tend cacao.  In three years time the cacao seedlings in the pictures below will be producing pods.

Putting cacao seed into seedling bags

Seedlings ready to plant
Chocolate Now
I could say that in the future your chocolate bar may come from the Amazon.  But the future is NOW!

The chocolate that I am bringing back to Maine this June.  We have two
varieties, milk chocolate and macambo chocolate.
This is Amazonian, indigenous grown and produced, organic chocolate.  This summer it will be in Midcoast Maine, and if it sells well, hopefully beyond.

It is produced by Makambun Chocolates (Arcecio Rendon is the owner), in Leticia, Colombia.  The cacao used by Arcecio is grown in the indigenous community of San Francisco, about 70 km upriver from Leticia.

A graphic of our business model:

Click on the above image and it may enlarge
Please visit us

Amazon Pueblo has published a website  called Amazon Cacao to help promote and sell the chocolate.  It may be found at: .

We also have a new Amazon Cacao Facebook business page:

Monday, April 23, 2018

Making farina: A popular Amazon topping that (WARNING) may break your teeth!

Farina is a staple food source of the Amazon made from yuca (cassava).  It may also be made and sold to produce an income.  However, this tasty nutty-flavored food topping, if eaten incorrectly, may break your teeth!

These bags sell in Leticia for $2 USD per kilo 
In this blog post we are showing off La Libertad's newest farina processing plant.  This allows the villagers to produce a higher quality (less likely to break teeth) farina in less time and under safer conditions for the makers.

And at the end of the post we will explain how to safely eat farina and avoid a trip to your favorite dentist.

Gasoline-powered yuca grater.  This makes a finer farina.

The yuca mash is then placed into large bags which are pressed to remove water.

One thing missing was a good oven to roast the farina.
In this picture we are collecting river clay to build an oven.

While the clay was messy, if was a very fun activity for a hot day.

We are building the frame for the oven.  A large steel pan is
placed over the frame to help with its formation.

Cutting grass which will be mixed into the clay.

The grass helps to improve the insulating qualities of the oven's walls.

At last the oven is finished!  Earlier ovens were made from mud, which did
not insulate well and would deteriorate quickly.

Toasting farina.  The good walls and one opening helps to shield
the toaster's legs and body from the heat of the oven.

It takes three to four hours to roast one big batch of farina.  This farina is almost
finished, but the kids can't wait to try it!

How to eat farina:
  1. First, look at the coarseness of the farina.  If it has large particles that seem to be very hard, ONLY use it in soups or other hot, moist dishes.
  2. Sprinkle about two tablespoons per serving.
  3. If the farina is of good quality and finely ground, you may put it on anything (ice cream?).  It may even be eaten plain by the cupful, as enjoyed by the children of the village.
  4. Chew farina only with the back teeth.

Why we are very happy with the farina plant of La Libertad

We, the Amazon Pueblo project, are very happy with the farina plant.  The plant is helping the villagers to make high quality farina which they can eat and/or sell for profit.

But another reason is more important.  They borrowed the money for part of the plant, which they are repaying.  They also built much of the plant by themselves.  And it is used almost weekly.  This is one of our most successful projects.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Christmas dinner in the jungle!

First, thank you to all the supporters of the project.  After a rough end of 2017, we are back on track for this year!

I especially would like to thank all of the people who donated to the Christmas dinner through Google's platform, One Today.  Next year we hope to feed more of the village's adults in addition to the children.

The weather was great during the morning, but it started raining in the afternoon.  Luckily everyone wanted to cook and eat early, so we had everything eaten and cleaned up by 1 pm, just in time for the showers.

Preparing the meal.  Everything was cooked over an open fire.

Cooking the chicken.  The broth was used for soup.

Soup for you!

Waiting in line for arroz con pollo (chicken mixed with rice and vegetables).

This year we cooked the most food of the past three years, and it went quickly!

The sun was strong in the late morning, but it rained during the afternoon.

The cooks and helpers resting after the Christmas feast.

Feliz Navidad!