Kankawarwa “El banco donde los mamos se sientan a pensar / the bench where the mamos sit down and think”, is an Arhuaco community, located in the Fundación river basin. Compañía Nacional de Chocolates and the Arahuaco community started a joint initiative in 2009 (and still ongoing) called Cacao Kankawarwa” that was recognised in 2015 with the “Emprender Paz” Award.

The awarded initiative, started incorporating new agricultural techniques on a plot of 114 hectares for the establishment of new crops and improvement of existing ones, making traditional and ancestral work more attractive and productive, which makes community members – especially young people – interested in actively participating in farming. By creating a stable and fair source of income for the community, it was possible to prevent departures of family members to illicit activities related to the cultivation of coca.

We interviewed Jorge Alejandro Puerta Restrepo who is Agricultural Development Coordinator at Compañía Nacional de Chocolates and has been involved in this initiative since 2011. He told us how much he had to learn about local culture, and how important traditions and ancient knowledge is for them. It was not enough to get there with “best practices” and technologies – if the initiative would not respect mother earth, the community was not interested.

Challenge. The Kankawarwa community is located near the north coast of Colombia which is a strategic corridor between the Colombian departments of Cesar, Guajira and Atlántico making the area very attractive for armed groups outside the law. Kankawarwa people were victims not only as individuals but as a community, where cultural, organisational and economic integrity was affected, and entire families were displaced.

Impact. The project initially worked with 13 families through the establishment of 25 hectares of cocoa. Today:

  • Productivity increased from 150 to 400 kilos of cacao/ha. Improvement is made respecting cultural identity and ancestral knowledge as the basis of any improvement.
  • The land dedicated to grow cacao and supportive vegetation (agroforestry system) has grown from 40 hectares to 102 in 2017
  • The community is currently selling to Compañía Nacional de Chocolates
  • 50 families (including from 5 close by communities) are now involved

 

 

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