July 12, 2024

USAID, France Team-up With Antioquia’s Embera for Novel Gourmet-Cacao Exports

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced September 6 that it’s teaming-up with France-based Elite Chocolate to train women from the Embera Eyabidá ethnic group here in Antioquia on specialized production and export of organic cacao for gourmet French chocolate.

According to USAID, “the cacao grown by women from the Embera Indigenous Council of Mutatá, Antioquia, begins to take its first steps to enter the French market.”

The initiative — part of USAID’s Páramos y Bosques (highlands and forest) conservation program — “facilitated a commercial alliance between the [Embera Council] and the French company La Finca Brava, whose business is to find the best cacao in Colombia to produce gourmet chocolate,” according to the agency.

“The initiative was joined by Elite Chocolate, a French organization that supports product markets in vulnerable communities,” according to USAID.

According to the partners, “the [Colombian] Pacific cacao has very special characteristics of flavor and aroma that come from the soil, the vegetation and the jungle, hence its high national and international demand. These characteristics, added to the organic process with which it is grown and upgraded, make it a highly desired product in specialized markets.”

To launch the initiative, three Embera women — Laura Marcela Suescun Goez, Gloria Esther Bailarin Domico and Argelia Bailarin Bailarin (see photo, above) — are traveling to France this month for 10 days of special training on production of specialty cacao, while also learning from French master chefs about gourmet chocolate production.

Back in Mutatá, Antioquia, other Embera women and their husbands subsequently will learn the same techniques and employ only the best raw materials, according to the project partners.

“It is projected that by 2022 the indigenous council of Mutatá will send the first quantities of organic cacao and later the product will be transformed into chocolate bars,” according to USAID.

Cacao production is just one of the commercial activities for the Embera de Mutatá Council, which currently guards 34,000 hectares of tropical forest dedicated to a “REDD+” project (Reduction of Emissions derived from Deforestation and Forest Degradation), supported by USAID.

The specialty cacao project not only will help boost the economy of the Embera community but also help master French chocolatiers and pastry chefs to produce the finest gourmet chocolates, according to La Finca Brava manager Gregory Le Heurt.

French consumers currently devour an astounding 36,000 tons of chocolate every 15 days — the equivalent of two-thirds of Colombia’s entire annual production of cacao, Le Heurt added.

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