Cordillera Chocolates pioneers Colombian women’s cocoa training venture

Colombian-based Cordillera Chocolates has devised an innovative sustainability training programme, considered a first of its kind at scale, geared around supporting women working within cocoa supply chains, reports Neill Barston.

The company, part of the Nutresa Group, is continuing to play its part in the development of the country’s confectionery manufacturing sector, which has delivered an upturn in growth during the past decade, driven by demand for premium product ranges.

Cordillera’s latest sustainability project, “Atenea, Women Who Transcend’  sustainability programme, is targeting generating long-term transformation in women cocoa producers, enabling a more just, equitable, prosperous, and thriving value chain.

Notably, Nutresa´s Chocolate Business (CNCh) and Cordillera Chocolates are signatories of the Cacao Forests Initiative (CFI), a global initiative targeting the protection and restoration of forests in the cocoa industry, incorporating sustainable intensification and diversification of cultivation through community participation, particularly in areas that have been affected by conflict.

Its operations to date have included a total of 127 public-private partnerships  that promote the competitiveness of the cocoa sector in Colombia, benefiting 22,933 cocoa families with 38,362 hectares of cocoa in 22 departments of the country. In 2022 it propagated and delivered 4.4 million units of cocoa plant material, destined for new plantings, renovation and rehabilitation of cocoa farms.

As the business noted, its objective is to strengthen the development of capacities in entrepreneurship, female empowerment, and financial education in the context of the lives of rural cocoa women, to impact the improvement of their quality of life and that of their families.

The one-year scheme includes three training modules and has the support of two strategic allies: SENA (National Apprenticeship Service) and DID Development International Desjardins (DID), the Canadian Cooperative Financing Group.

Its first area of focus is on entrepreneurship in processing chocolate product, building skills for aspiring manufacturers in the cocoa sector, devised by SENA Emprende Rural Programme, which has been carrying out training and accompaniment actions for entrepreneurship and employability.

For its second module on financial education for rural women, this aims to provide business support to women in outlying areas of the country so that they identify opportunities to improve their finances and environment.

The final element of the course is centred on female empowerment, recognising that women play a decisive role in agricultural and rural development, but often face challenges and barriers such as access to education, a decent income, to opportunities for their personal, family, and professional development. This module emerges as a strategy to promote the reduction of gender inequality that is accentuated in some rural areas.

As the business noted, the first phase of this program will be carried out in Urabá Antioquia with 115 women belonging to 6 associations of cocoa producers: Asitapur, Aprocesu, Acefuver, Asochagula, Caocares, and Asocacao de Uraba. The project is to be launched in a livestream broadcast today (830am in Colombian time) at the following link:

Alejandra Sarasty, Chief Global B2B Officer, commented on the new scheme’s potential: “Developing skills for women in the Colombian cocoa sector, means more than teaching them about entrepreneurship or leadership. It also means, impacting a family, a broader community where they interact and ultimately, the cocoa sector and the progress of our country. Atenea reflects Cordillera´s commitment to a thriving sustainable cocoa ecosystem and it honours our purpose to enable sustainable pathways for growth and prosperity.”


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