The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is the highest mountain in Colombia: its peak reaches 5775 metres above sea level. It is a massif facing the Caribbean Sea, separated from the Andean cordillera, and is inhabited predominantly by the indigenous groups Kogi, Arhuacos and Wiwa, as well as mestizos and Afro-descendants in the lower areas. The mountain is characterized by an abundance of water, which results in large part from its perennially snow-capped peaks, and its vegetation consists of tropical dry forest. During the 80s and 90s, the area was an important centre for the production of illicit crops such as coca and marijuana, but today this has largely been replaced thanks to state and international cooperation programs.
On the slopes of the mountain, especially on the north face that looks out to sea in the municipality of Dibulla (province of Guajira), it is still possible to find wild porcelana cocoa plants, a local variety that has yellow-green pods, long leaves and thin white seeds with a strong aroma. Even though the earliest records of the cultivation of cocoa date back to 1895, wild cocoa has been found in the highlands of the mountains since time immemorial. For the indigenous population it represented an important source of energy and its ground grains were consumed by the elderly in a drink that was considered sacred.
Unfortunately in recent decades the porcelana cocoa, once abundant, has been replaced by hybrid varieties, cultivated by local producer cooperatives, intercropped with fruit trees (such as plantain and avocado), timber (oak) and leguminous plants (carob among others), and sold for an extremely low price at local intermediaries.
The Presidium – developed in collaboration with IFAD and the Colombian NGO Cor- poración PBA – aims to find the best Porcelana cocoa plants in the Sierra Nevada and reproduce them organically in an agroforestry system in the area. Within this system the cocoa is cultivated in the forest alongside other trees (wild or otherwise), fruits and vegetables.
The Presidium will also work to improve producers’ post-harvest and processing tech- niques and train them in producing and marketing high quality cacao beans to make chocolate bars, organic panela (solidified sugar cane juice) and other local ingredients made by other small-scale producer organizations of the Sierra Nevada.
Dibulla municipality, Guajira department, Colombia
Presidium supported by
IFAD - International Fund for Agricultural Development
DPS - Departamento para la Prosperidad Social
Presidium in collaboration with
Yarido Antonio Banquez Torres
Tel. +57 3015767718