Jordi Roca, considered the best pastry chef in the world, made Colombia his last stop in Latin America as he searched for the best cacao in the world. There, he learned about crops grown by the indigenous group arhuaco, as well as the cacao produced by small growers with the support of Bancamía, the BBVA Microfinance Foundation’s entity in Colombia.
The project was implemented with the collaboration of National Geographic and the BBVA, taking the youngest of the Rocas as far as Boyacá. In this province he was able to closely witness the work of growers like Exelino Sierra, a farmer from Pauna, who declares that cacao and microcredits from Bancamía changed his life.
He related that he lived “for survival” until he was 20 years old. His father passed away when he was a child, and this compelled him to drop out of school and work in the fields. In time, violence and drug dealing arrived to his town and he had to adjust to the circumstances. “There was a time when I worked with coca, but my children were very young and I didn’t want to have to escape every time the authorities came by. I had to leave all my former crops behind because they weren’t profitable enough, but I was scared and I didn’t want to live that way. When the eradication efforts started, I opted for cacao”, he reminisces while holding a cup of chocolate between his hands.
Today, Exelino attests to the greatest change in his life: 5 thousand cacao trees and a house in expansion. Thanks to the microcredits from the Colombian microfinance institution (MFI), he is currently making his dream come true by working for his six children, to give them better lives. This is something he was able to prove to Jordi Roca, to whom he showed his 4-hectare plantation. “I’m very thankful to Bancamía because it helped me a lot. I dream of leaving a good home for my children, so they won’t have to experience the hardships I went through. I hope to continue cultivating cacao, improve its quality, so I could also improve my life and that of my family’s”, assures the entrepreneur.
Before meeting with Exelino, the Spanish chef previously visited other BBVAMF entrepreneurs from Peru, where he started his quest. On that occasion, it was with Financiera Confianza’s entrepreneur, Óscar Velásquez, who impressed the cuisinier with his knowledge about cacao and his work among cacao farms.
After this trip, Jordi Roca ends an adventure that has allowed him not only to search for the best cacao in the world. He also got to know people who, thanks to this product and their entrepreneurial spirit, were able to completely change their lives for the better.