Hello and good day!
Out where we buy cacao in northern Peru, there aren't any big plantations. All of the farms that sell cacao to our project are small hold, multi-crop, agroforestry style, family-owned farms.
This is a much more appropriate structure for cultivating the rare variety of cacao that is native to the area. The naturally occurring variety of cacao, pure Nacional, is very well adapted to its environment and is symbiotic with other plant life.
On the other hand, industrial hybrid trees that are brought in for their higher yields kill off other plant life over time.
They suck nutrients out of the soil at an unsustainable rate in order to support unnaturally high levels of production and the forest around these trees shrivels up and dies.
Likewise, it doesn't make sense to use pure Nacional as a plantation crop because it does much better in its natural environment. The trees are more disease resistant growing side by side with other native plants and the production is higher too. Farming in this way supports the natural environment and the soil and leads to sustainable productivity gains in the long run.
In this case, what is good for the environment and the soil also provides an economic benefit. Agroforestry farming allows farmers to farm several crops simultaneously on the same plot of land. Bananas and other tall fruit trees grow up high as a shade canopy.
Cacao is in the vertical middle.
Coffee and livestock are on the ground.
Multipurpose use of the land in this way increases income and also provides a hedge against swings in commodity markets. This has always been one of the big benefits of our project for cacao farmers.
We centralize all of the post-harvest processing, an activity that our farm partners previously had to do themselves out on their farms, and this frees up time that farmers can dedicate to additional cash crops.
This is symbiosis. Everything goes up together because the logic of the relationships is well thought out.
When one part of the system improves other parts of the system also improve automatically and there isn't a weak spot that could cause the whole thing to come crashing down. Because of the system, the structure becomes stronger and stronger over time.
My brother Brian had never run a big team before he built our cacao processing facility in the jungle. During the cacao harvest, our facility employs between 30 and 40 full time workers.
One of Brian's favorite early memories from our project was the first time he had the privilege of buying lunch for the entire team. Out in campo, there are street cart vendors who walk around with little push carts on wheels. There was a woman who owned a street cart and her specialty was papa rellena. The double L in rellena is pronounced as a Y and papa is potato.
Papa rellena is my favorite Peruvian street food. Potatoes are native to Peru and Peruvian potatoes beat American potatoes by a very wide margin. The potato is boiled and mashed and then the mashed potato is reformed back into the original, oval, shape of the potato.
Shredded meat, chicken or beef, boiled egg pieces, and purple olives are stuffed into the middle of the formed potato. Then the entire thing is deep fried until it is golden brown. The outside is golden and crispy and salty. The inside is soft and fluffy.
There are several sauce options available, ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, and Peruvian hot sauce, called ahi, pronounced "ah-hee". When you cut through the potato into the middle, you get the fillings, and the sauces, the crisp exterior, and the soft mashed potato.
It is a perfect bite of food.
Brian went out into the street and waved the street cart worker into the facility. He asked her how many papas she had, and she had enough. Brian asked if he could buy them all and she said yes. It was a score for her. She'd be able to head home early.
Brian called the team around and thanked everybody for their hard work and told them to step up and eat. The company was paying for it. The team let out a cheer and everybody stood around with a paper plate in their hand, eating, and smiling, appreciative.
Brian looked on with pride because he was able to do something good for these wonderful people who gave him such a strong effort every single day.
As time went on, it became clear that the better you treat your team and the more you can give them, the more they will give you, and the stronger your business will become.
An enterprise and its team are in a symbiotic relationship as well. The more they give each other, the more they will get as a result.
Products and services will constantly improve, customers will be happier, and that will provide the resources needed to power a self-propelling feedback loop. Often overlooked is that a business and its customers are also in a symbiotic relationship.
The more a customer does business with a company they like, the more resources the company will have available to do better work and improve their offerings, and this, in turn, will benefit the customer.
This will all break down and fall apart if somewhere inside one of these layers of systems, one of the actors changes from acting symbiotically to acting exploitatively.
It takes wisdom, discipline, integrity, and vision not to act exploitatively when the opportunity presents itself. The primary motivator of exploitation is greed and the possibility of a short-term gain.
The primary motivator of symbiosis is the desire to build something big and strong that supports as much life and growth and prosperity as is possible and that lasts forever.
Here at Fortunato Chocolate, we strive for symbiotic relationships in all that we do.
Thank you so much for your time today.
I hope that you have a truly blessed day!