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How Jocotoco is protecting the future of chocolate

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More than two-thirds of people across the globe say that they cannot imagine a world without chocolate.[1] But if we want to live in a world full of Chocolately-deliciousness, we need to change the way we treat the land and people that provide us with it. Because shockingly, the chocolate industry is one of the main drivers of deforestation. Here at Ombar, we want to do things differently. That’s why, when you buy a bar of our Oat M’lk chocolate, 3p is donated to Fundación Jocotoco, an NGO based in Ecuador, where we (sustainably) source our cacao. The donation helps to reforest the Chocó rainforest, one of the most vulnerable and biodiverse ecosystems in the world and home to vulnerable species like the Long-wattled Umbrella bird and Great Green Macaw. With the fastest deforestation rate in the country and less than 2% of its original vegetation remaining, Jocotoco’s work is more vital than ever.

Map showing the location of the Chocó-Darien rainforest

The Jocotoco project that we support is located in the Chocó-Darien rainforest. Specifically, they manage the buffer zones of the Canandé and Tesoro Escondido nature reserves, which are home to the last remnants of the Esmeraldas province’s primary forest. These aren’t just isolated forests, but a sort of bio-corridor that connects to Cotacachi Cayapas, a beautiful National Park populated by diverse wildlife and ancient trees. The ecological reserves not only benefit animals that thrive in large areas, but members of the local community who help to reforest them.

Jocotoco works with the communities in the vicinity of Canandé and Tesoro to plant trees that are native to the Chocó. These trees are a source of food to wildlife and have economic value to local families. The reforestation project works with 6 plant nurseries located in different communities. Our very own Cacao Supply Chain Manager, Paola, visited the Ñampi plant nursery, that nurses more than 20 tree species and have been directly funded from donations made by Ombar. She shared some incredible pictures that show the scale of this project, and the daily lives of people who work there.

A delivery of new trees to plant
A delivery of new trees

Ñampi is a Chachi community, one of the 14 Indigenous groups that live in Ecuador. The Jocotoco reforestation project is run by two people from the locality, Paola and Miguel. They deliver the seedlings to families that want to reforest the area with fruit and wood trees.

Paola and Miguel deliver seedlings to families who want to grow trees
Paola and Miguel deliver seedlings to families who want to grow trees

Paola, Ombar’s Supply Chain Manager, visited the Canandé area to learn more about the reforestation project. Here, she met with members of the Jocotoco foundation and the local farmers who work on the reserves. She explains,

“The day of my visit we delivered about 50 trees to 4 families, the whole day was rainy especially while planting the trees, however everyone was very enthusiastic to plant the first trees of this year. We planted the trees within cacao monoculture plantations, the area was chosen by the Chachis and the tree species delivered were Guayacan, Madroño, Orange, Tangerine, Zapote, Uva de monte, Vara Negra and Avocado.”

Many of the seedlings that Jocotoco delivered that day came from seeds collected at the Canandé and Tesoro natural reserves. However, since the project focuses on native tree species, deliveries depend on the availability of seeds and the flowering time of the trees, which varies due to climate change.

Jocotoco are ambitious. In 2021, they planted 25832 trees in six reserves. 47200 will be planted in 2022. Currently, only two people work in the fields on a permanent basis, but they want this to change. Jocotoco aim to use the money raised to employ more staff for the project. These extra hands will help them to reach their reforestation target.

People were excited to plant the first trees of the year
Everyone was excited to plant the first trees of the year

Paola explains that “Nowadays, activities such as timber extraction, palm-oil plantations, cattle ranching and cacao monocultures are still the most common in Canandé; therefore, the reforestation project also mitigates the negative impact on the ecosystem from these industries.”

The project helps people, as well as the environment. They support an orchard located at Cristóbal Colón, the community where Paola was born and currently lives. Family orchards have been developed over hundreds of years by Indigenous communities, and Jocotoco’s work is helping them to survive in the 21st century.

Jocotoco are helping to reforest one of the most vulnerable ecosystems in the world. In doing so, they are protecting endangered species and providing people with opportunities for safe, fair employment. That is why Ombar supports this project! We want to do more than make delicious vegan chocolate. We want to protect the land and people who provide us with it.

Extra Reading:

More information about Fundación de Conservación Jocotoco:

Meet Paola, our Supply Chain Manager:

“If we want to keep eating chocolate, we have to end deforestation” :

“Saving the Largest Remaining Corridor of Chocó Forest in Western Ecuador”: https://www.rainforesttrust.or...