Michigan Chocolatiers Join Project Aimed at Growing Cacao in Peru

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Several Michigan chocolatiers have offered their support for a project aimed at creating sustainable projects in Amazonian communities, with one project focused on growing cacao that will be exported directly to craft chocolate makers.

The project, called VASI (Amazonian Vision for an Integrated Sustainability) was launched by Nancy Dammann, a Charlevoix resident and a conservation biologist who has done extensive research in Peru. Her project aims to help residents of rural Peruvian communities create legal and sustainable business communities, provide access to higher education, and develop collaborative scientific research to inform local and regional policy.

Dammann says the Amazon is home to cacao, the fruit that produces chocolate. She says based on a lack of genetic diversity, increased presence of pests and fungal issues, and increased demand, there may not be enough production to meet the demand for cacao.

“We know that (the land in Peru) grows wild and heirloom varieties of cacao that aren’t in the market and are completely unique, and we know it’s good because people use it in their own homes,” Dammann says.

Good Stuff Cacao in Metamora, a village located in Lapeer County, offered support to VASI’s project because of their interest in the ethical production of chocolate. Just Good Chocolate in Lake Leelanau and Grocer’s Daughter Chocolate, located in Empire near Glen Arbor, have also offered advice and support.

“They’ve been great in really teaching us a lot about fair trade, what’s going on in the chocolate world, and connecting us with to people,” Dammann says.

She says the chocolatiers plan to use the cacao beans in the production of their chocolate when the cacao trees are fully-grown, within the next five years.

“The world demand for quality cacao continues to outpace supply and if the project succeeds in building a successful exporting business, both producers and chocolate-makers stand to benefit,” says Jody Hayden, owner of Grocer’s Daughter Chocolate. “More and more, consumers want to know that their chocolate purchases are supporting small farmers and VASI intends to make this integral to their work.”

Dammann launched a crowdfunding campaign in January, with the goal to raise $100,000.

“Our goal is that within five to seven years VASI will become self-supporting, generating income that helps increase the farmer’s quality of life and community health, and able to spread in a sustainable way,” she says.

To support the VASI project, click here

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