Chocolate Cordillera joins industry call for global cocoa sector action

Chocolate Cordillera, the Colombian sustainable chocolate brand is preparing to participate in the upcoming Amsterdam Cocoa Week, with calls for collective global action on supporting key supply chain communities, writes Neil Barston.

The company noted that it is set to share the latest results from its ATENEA sustainability programme, targeting support for women in the cocoa industry.

It will take part in the Amsterdam Cocoa week between 5-11 February, alongside the key Chocoa event, which will also place a valuable spotlight on major environmental and social issues facing the broader industry.

The brand recently announced that 106 female cocoa farmers from the Antioquia region of the country have completed the first module of its ATENEA sustainability program, giving some the confidence to become fully independent and start businesses.

Alejandra Sarasty, Chief Global B2B Officer at Colombia’s Compañia Nacional de Chocolates (owners of Chocolate Cordillera), explained the significance of the milestone for the women directly involved and the cocoa sector in general.

“Cordillera is part of Grupo Nutresa and is fully committed to building a sustainable business. There are 65,000 cocoa-growing families in Colombia, and we work directly with them.”

ATENEA – Women Who Transcend – is the company’s sustainability initiative with a ‘higher purpose,’ developing the capacities of rural cocoa-growing women to improve their quality of life and that of their families and communities while maintaining Colombia’s unique ecosystem.

Sarasty explained the concept further: “Last year Cordillera, our B2B brand, developed a sustainability program, the first of its kind on this scale, targeting cocoa-growing women and rural women to devise a program to build empowerment capabilities specifically.

“We believe in the power of women to impact and generate a transformation on a larger scale. We believe that we’re not impacting an individual when we impact women. We’re impacting a family. We’re impacting a community on a larger scale.”

In less than a year, the program has had significant early wins, hitting milestones the company did not expect to reach so early on.

Notable achievements include some women already starting their own companies, including a cookie shop, an ice cream shop, and two chocolate start-ups.

“They are startups, and it has already generated additional income for the farmers and their families,” Sarasty said.

The first training module, ‘Entrepreneurship in the processing of chocolate products,’ has been completed. Now, the women move on to Module 2: Financial Education for Rural Women before ending the program with Module 3: Female Empowerment.

Sarasty and colleagues from Chocolate Cordillera will present more of their findings during Amsterdam Cocoa Week when they attend the CHOCOA sustainability conference and the World Cocoa Foundation Partnership Meeting.

The theme during the week-long sessions will be ‘aligning for cocoa action.’ Chocolate Cordillera is a WCF partner, and Sarasty says the aligning together message has to be taken seriously.

“We’ve seen in the past six months cocoa prices soaring, globally there have been disruptions, political disruptions, economic, social disruptions worldwide … this calls for every one of us involved in the cocoa and chocolate value chain to work together … .the word ‘competitors’ should disappear because global action means we’re all in here. There’s just one planet,” she said

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