This past month, Ayni Peru participated in the first annual Meeting of Rural Community Tourism in the Americas (Primero Encuentro de Turismo Rural Comunitario de las Americas). Held in and around Tarapoto, Peru, the meeting was an extraordinary opportunity to learn about and meet representatives from community-based tourism projects throughout North, Central and South America. Along with the opportunity to form relationships and learn about the experiences of others, the meeting highlighted the growing network of communities in the Tarapoto area invested in attracting international and national visitors.
One of the most interesting workshops we attended was that of Mishky Cacao, a female cooperative specializing in the production of artisanal chocolate and majambo, a close relative of cacao. (Theobroma bicolor.)
Majambo is a slow-growing tree in the Malvaceae, or Mallows, family; also known as the jaguar tree, pataxte, or balamte. This special tree has adapted to surviving severe flooding, with flowers blooming from July to September and producing fruit in the months of March to November.
The fruit is green while its edible, oval seeds are white, covered by a thick and juicy substance. The seeds are harvested and used for making chocolate, desserts, juices, and even roasting the seeds themselves.
Beginning in 2013, Ayli Quinteros, along with twelve other women from Mishky Cacao cooperative (meaning sweet cacao in Quechua) came together to transform their way of life in their small community of Chazuta, located in the region of San Martin in Peru.
By offering training and skill development in cultivating and producing chocolate and majambo, they have achieved not only to bring about value within the chocolate industry, but also lessen the violence from narcotrafficking that their town endured when they formerly cultivated coca leaves.
This perseverance has brought many profitable moments, including global recognition for winning the Mott Green Memorial Award for Sustainable Cacao Cooperatives at the International Chocolate Awards in 2014. Visitors to their workshop have the opportunity to learn about their cooperative and experiences, as well as the fascinating processes of cultivating and producing cacao and majambo
Ayni Peru looks forward to working with these ladies to open the doors to more opportunities and elevate the work of these incredible women.