Flavorful, sustainable cocoa

The tropical rainforests of Los Rios, Ecuador, are home to Eco-Kakao – a family-run business exporting cocoa. One can see the pride on Ivan Ontaneda’s face as he talks about the business. “We have more than 25 years of experience in the cocoa business and industry, and have overcome significant challenges,” says the owner. 

Ecuador is the world’s third-largest producer of cocoa beans. The country’s annual production surpasses 280 thousand metric tons. This is perhaps unsurprising, considering that cocoa consumption is believed to have originated in the Amazon region in Ecuador more than 5,000 years ago. Evidence suggests that the first commercial harvests of cocoa were taking place in the province of Los Ríos by the year 1600. 

That means Ontaneda and his family are continuing thousands of years of local tradition. And by ensuring that the production of their cocoa sources is sustainable, they want to see this tradition continue long into the future. Ontaneda explains: “Eco-Kakao is the leader in the country’s sustainable cocoa business. We have achieved this by generating important strategic alliances with significant partners across the world to jointly develop programs for the benefit of small producers – all framed in sustainability and respect for the environment.” 

Sustainable Cocoa 

With a Rainforest Alliance certification, Eco-Kakao plays an important role in the sustainable cocoa value chain by encouraging its small-scale producers to adopt sustainable practices. The company has implemented the Aurora and Sassandra Sustainable Programs, which were created by Blommer Chocolate Company, the largest cocoa processor and chocolate ingredient supplier in North America, Olam International Limited, a global integrated supply chain 

manager of agricultural products and food ingredients, and cocoa farming communities in Cote d’Ivoire and Indonesia. Together, the goal is to improve the livelihoods of cocoa farmers and develop a sustainable and traceable supply chain based on good quality cocoa from around the world. These programs promote sustainability in the industry by training cocoa farmers on crop management using environmentally friendly agricultural practices.

This includes recovering degraded areas, promoting management and conservation of water sources, and working to prevent soil erosion. “Our sustainability programs focus on increasing productivity and life quality of the small cocoa holders. We establish a traceability system that guarantees information about the cocoa bean through each step of the process, from production to postharvest handling and distribution,” expounds Ontaneda.

Social Responsibility

Eco-Kakao holds a Rainforest Alliance certification with a mission to promote fair trade with small producers and traders, integrating the highest international sustainability standards in the entire agro-productive cocoa chain. “We are not only committed to protecting the environment, but also to improving the lives of all small-holder farmers working with Eco-Kakao,” says Ontaneda.

The company aims to improve the profits and livelihoods of its farmers and cooperative members by using tools such as technical trainings on, for example, efficient pre- and post-harvest techniques, and integrated pest management to improve yields and quality.

To date, Eco-Kakao has trained over 2,000 families in sustainable practices and overall business management. “I am so happy to work here knowing that we export the best cocoa Ecuador has to offer. We are working hard to promote fair trade with small producers and traders and ensure we use the Amazon’s natural resources sustainably,” says Ontaneda.

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