By Mark Richmond
As a self-confessed chocoholic, I never thought about where my chocolate came from or how it was produced. This has all changed since my experiences in Ecuador and now I only consume chocolate that I know where it has come from and how it has been produced. I am particularly conscious now of Global Goal 12 – Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns, when purchasing chocolate.
I was lucky enough to visit both downtown Quito and the cloud forest region of Mindo whilst I was in Ecuador. On a sightseeing trip to Quito, I stumbled upon Yumbos Chocolateria Artesanal, a small artisan chocolate factory and shop located in both. At their factory and shop I was given a tour and informed about the chocolate that they produce. The tour explains how the cacao fruit is produced by the women’s groups they are in collaboration with and then shows the process how the fruit is harvested, fermented, dried, roasted, ground, pasted, refined, and tempered creating a bean to bar product.
Yumbos was founded by Claudia Ponce, who has a passion for cacao and whose aim it was to create excellent quality chocolate, for the benefit of the cacao farmers and workers in her hometown of Mindo and to the delight of consumers.
Yumbos chocolate is pure, handmade without preservatives or artificial flavours, and is made from hand selected cacao all produced in Ecuador. Cacao, grown and produced in Ecuador is classed as fine aroma and has a unique flavour, but only represents 4.7% of the worlds cocoa production.
The uses and knowledge about the fine and aromatic Cacao varieties of Ecuador are an intangible heritage of the county. Traditional knowledge and practices related to cultivation, consumption, transportation, and marketing are part of the history and culture that has remained constant over the centuries.
It is worth acknowledging the successful effort of Ecuador in implementing a large-scale project to protect and promote the genetics of the fine and aromatic cacao variety.
Yumbos has implemented an ethical alliance with several women’s groups in Ecuador. This association brings together around 100 families who have always cultivated cacao on small farms. This is an important part of their culture and identity and is part of the heritage of their ancestors. This is all done using traditional farming techniques and that are environmentally friendly. Yumbos support the women by providing funding for the refurbishment and construction of a cocoa collection centre, implementing a continuous training program and by paying a fair price for the cacao produced, which helps to ensure that value generated by their work remains in their community.
By taking this approach, Yumbos promotes Global Goal 12 – Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns. According to Goal 12 | Department of Economic and Social Affairs (un.org) , as of 2016, 13.8% of food is lost in supply chains. By creating their bean to bar product, Yumbos aim to reduce the supply chain associated with food loss. In a report, the Sustainable Progress Index 2019 | Social Justice Ireland, highlights that in a study of 15 countries, Ireland is ranked 14/15 for responsible consumption and production and that we have significant challenges ahead if we are to achieve our objectives relating to this goal.
My action at home projects both stem from the idea of Global Goal 12 – Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns and focus on the sustainable consumption of chocolate and the production patterns of cocoa. The inspiration for my idea originates from my visit to Yumbos, whilst in Ecuador and the influence of their sustainable approach. I was also blown away by their chocolate, which is some of the best I have ever tasted and I have since stopping buying mass produced chocolate. I would urge anyone to try Fairtrade chocolate which I believe tastes better and can help to progress Global Goal 12.
My first action at home project involved me researching the world chocolate trade and promoting Global Goal 12 and Fair-trade Chocolate. I produced an interactive module which I delivered online to the Ballyfermot Adults Learning Together group (BALT) and Transition Year students in my former secondary school. I went to BALT as they helped me in my own adult education journey. They provide college style lectures to adults returning to education and are always looking for interesting topics and subjects to discuss. I found many resources on the chocolate trade with help via many organisations such as Fairtrade Ireland, World Wise Global Schools, developmenteducation.ie and The Proper Chocolate Company.
Through my experience in Ecuador and my subsequent research I have learnt much about the global chocolate trade and in particular the mass production of cocoa products by a few multinationals, which are not sustainable and are specifically profit driven. I am now more conscious of my purchases and promote Fair-trade chocolate to others.
Read more about how you can source ethical chocolate here.