Nacional (Arriba) Cacao/Chocolate
Nacional (Arriba) Cacao/Chocolate
Several different types of cacao beans are now produced in the world. The Forastero variety, which represents about 90 percent of all production, is cultivated mainly in Western African countries such as Ivory Coast, Ghana, and Nigeria, where plantations in European colonies historically produced cacao using African slaves and child labor. This variety, originally from South America, boasts high productivity achieved through a long process of crop improvement. The downside is arguably the weakness of aroma.
The other types include the Criollo, which is grown mainly in Latin America such as Venezuela and Caribbean countries; the Trinitario, a crossbreed between the Criollo and the Forastero grown in Trinidad, Brazil, etc.; and the Nacional (Arriba), which only grows in Ecuador. These types have characteristic rich aroma, but they are vulnerable to disease and produced in limited quantities.
Criollo cacao fruits
Forastero cacao fruits
Trinitario cacao fruits
Nacional cacao fruits
Landscape in the upper reaches of the Amazon
Wild cacao tree
Nacional cacao, a rarity
This variety, representing only about 2 percent of the world’s cacao production, is very akin to the original wild type cacao from the Amazon region.
It is indigenous to Ecuador, and allegedly cannot grow in other countries.
Nacional cacao was produced in substantial quantities 400 years ago, but the cultivation of this disease-prone variety was devastated by a massive epidemic in 1920. A disease-resistant hybrid (CCN51) was developed subsequently, and guided by a national policy, most producers switched over to this hybrid with weak aroma and high yield. The weakness of aroma, however, lowered the perceived value of their products in international markets, and now there is renewed interest in the authentic (conventional) variety. A problem is that many products labeled as authentic Nacional cacao beans are actually mixtures containing hybrid cacao, which can be mass produced at low cost. It is difficult to eliminate hybrid cocoa from distribution in a system involving brokers. Very few production and distribution organizations have reliable traceability systems, which can ensure the production and supply of pure Nacional cacao.
In this sense as well, “pure Nacional cacao” is a rarity.
This is a cooperative organization of indigenous people (Kichwa people) in the upper reaches of the Amazon in Ecuador. It comprises about 5,000 people in 850 farming households.
The cooperative produces cacao beans of the Nacional type, which is native to the Amazon region, in a fully ecological way without using any chemicals or fertilizers in a traditional tropical rain forest environment. Following a unique method of mixed planting (called chakra farming), in which cacao trees are grown among other fruit trees and crops under the shades of a forest, they achieve sustainable production while maintaining the Amazonian ecosystem. An epoch-making feature of this organization is the systematic approach to the exclusion of hybrid cacao. Quality assurance engineers always attend the collection of cacao beans, an inspection system for ensuring the authenticity of products has been established, and the whole organization is striving for further improvement of product quality. Farmers not only grow cacao beans but also produce and market chocolate as the end product, aiming at the compounding of the primary, secondary, and tertiary industries in the Amazon region.
The attempt of the farmers at producing their own chocolate in competition with established European manufacturers attracted much attention from all over the world. The New York Times ahead of others published a feature article on this ambitious enterprise. Rich, fruity aroma is the hallmark of Kallari chocolate, the product of cacao beans grown by chakra farming in the Amazon region. The New York Times Style Magazine gave the highest three stars rating to its aroma among the brands of organic chocolate. Slow Food International, an organization based in Italy, designated this venture as a Slow Food Presidium (a local project that supports the promotion of valuable traditional farming in the world) in 2004.
Arriba Nacional variety
Kallari chocolate was named after the word that means “from the past to the future” in the Kichwa language spoken by the local people. The name “Kallari” carries the ideal of the young leaders of Kichwa who founded this venture, which is to grow the ancient variety of Nacional cacao using traditional farming methods while protecting the environment and at the same time introducing new wisdom and technologies to achieve sustainable development for the future. In other words, they are practicing the spirit of “learning tradition and making innovation”.
All the profit from the Kallari chocolate business flows back to cooperative members, who strive to support sustainable development of local community and conserve the biodiversity of Amazonian tropical rain forests. They are practicing fair trade pursuing the goal of achieving the independence of community while protecting Amazonian forests.
General meeting of cooperative members in 2013
Marketing and Promotion Director
Production and Natural Resource Director