El Chocó is a tropical region that extends along Colombia’s Pacific coast from the Panama Canal down to the northwest coast of Ecuador. Thanks to its extraordinary biodiversity, it is considered one of the world’s priority areas for species conservation and is home to the only intact tropical rainforest in the South American Pacific region (continuous forest).
In Ecuador, the Andean Chocó includes the moist forests in the northwest of the country. Due to the area’s geographic isolation, cut off to the east by the Andean Cordigliera, it is home to a high concentration of endemic species—plants, birds and other animals—whose risk of extinction has increased over the years due to reckless exploitation of the natural resources.
This area is known for the production of cacao fino de aroma, also known as Nacional, an Ecuadorean variety recognized around the world for its excellent sensory qualities. The cacao pods can have different shapes and sizes but are generally elongated with a rough surface, yellowish or yellow-brown in color. The oblong seeds, of various sizes, are surrounded by an acidic but sugar-rich pulp.
The plantations are found on land formerly exploited for livestock farming, and the environment is now being regenerated through the introduction of agroforestry systems. This helps to preserve the ecosystem and protect the native forests, under threat from livestock farming and the palm-oil industry.
Nacional cacao is used for many different products: cocoa powder, cocoa paste, cocoa butter and chocolate bars, which add value to the raw material and facilitate local and national sales.
Over the years, the cultivation of Nacional cacao in Ecuador has decreased greatly because its productivity is lower than hybrid varieties, even though the price paid to farmers is the same. In some areas, 80% of traditional Nacional cacao plantations have already been replaced by plantations of other varieties.
This cacao variety is not yet sufficiently valued by the local communities, and market competition from industrial products made with hybrid cacao varieties is still very high. The Presidium wants to contribute to safeguarding Nacional cacao, promoting it on the local and national market (at fair prices) and improving the production techniques while respecting and safeguarding the ecosystem.
Mashpi, Chalpi and Pachijal river basins, where the Mashpi, Sahuangal and Pachijal communities have settled, Pichincha, Andean Chocó
Mashpi Chocolate Artesanal
Parroquia de Pacto, Pichincha
Tel. +593 (0) 96807990
Thanks to the assistance of Mashpi Chocolate Artesanal, several families use communal facilities to process their cacao pods.
Esteban Tapia Merino
Consigliere Internazionale di Slow Food per l’Area Andina
Tel. +59 322376910
Presidium producers coordinator
Agustina Arcos Torres e Alejandro Solano Ugalde
Tel. +59 968079900 / +59 967731489