This week we are hearing from Diego Saquicela Rojas, consultant to la Asociación de Productores Agropecuarios Artesanal Nueva Esperanza (ASOANE), HCP Designee #5. ASOANE is an association of 25 producers of artisanal agriculture located in Puerto Quito, Ecuador.
ASOANE has been awarded two ‘nursery program’ grants from HCP, funded by the Lesley Family Foundation, to establish a clonal garden to propagate their unique Heirloom designated cacao. Diego has overseen these two programs and, has taken the time to answer some questions in regards to how the Pandemic is affecting the association.
Q: What is the status in your country/region?
A: In Ecuador, transportation and mobility have been restricted since March 17 due to the pandemic, and a curfew is in place for the afternoon and evening. However, among the exceptions to this security measure are farmers, who are free to carry out their activities without the need for any safe-conduct. Products, and even some inputs, can then be moved to and from the farms.
At the moment, the normalization of activities has begun, although it will be a slow and complicated process, because there are several phases and people are very eager to go out and carry out their normal lives.
In Ecuador, three phases are planned before returning to normal. Simulating a traffic light, we have the red, yellow and green phase, in decreasing order of restriction. At the moment, almost the whole country is in a red phase.
Q: What challenges has the pandemic caused in ASOANE’s operations?
A: The HCP program activities in the community have been affected, because it is not allowed and it is a bad idea to have meetings with the farmers. Therefore, all the coordination of meetings has been suspended and there is very little conversation by phone or messages. In the area where the farmers live telephone and internet coverage is limited. Therefore, the communication and coordination are always more effective in face-to-face meetings.
Q: How has the pandemic affected the economy in your area?
A: The economy of ASOANE farmers so far has not been seriously affected. However, the whole country is envisioning a very strong economic crisis due to the pandemic and economic measures taken by the government. There is a deterioration in the quality of public and private employment, is expected to increase the cost of fuel, which according to several analysts will generate less consumption capacity and there will influence farmers; specifically in the demand for their products and prices paid for their products. In the case of ASOANE, as they are involved in cocoa bean production, and as this is mainly an export product, there will be some security in maintaining stable prices especially if the consumer markets (Europe, USA) manage to overcome the economic crisis quickly, but other products for domestic consumption may be affected.
Q: Are you developing new opportunities to adapt to these new challenges?
A: ASOANE members are less anxious, because they have been able to continue working on their farms; unlike city dwellers. Among the activities that ASOANE has been developing is the preparation of chocolate bars for tourist companies. Before the emergency there was an order for 15,000 chocolate bars. However, that order was cancelled and some business opportunities have been lost. They hope to be able to sell those bars as soon as the emergency passes. That is complicated in Ecuador where the consumption of chocolate bars is very low.
Interested in supporting ASOANE? ASOANE has created its own brand of chocolate available online at La Capital Del Chocolate where you can find a variety of products made from their Heirloom Designated cacao.
How can you help support Heirloom Designees around the world during these uncertain times? Click the following link to our Buy Heirloom Chocolate page on our website, where you can find a list of retailers selling chocolate made from Heirloom designated cacao beans.
With your purchase, you will enjoy extraordinary chocolate and support our Heirloom farmers.