Don Leonel has dedicated his whole life to cacao. When he was a child, he used to help in his parents’ plantation and later on, decided to buy his own land. 40 years have passed since those days, and now he leads the organic cacao production in his area, with the support of Banco Adopem, BBVA Microfinance Foundation’s Dominican institution. Jordi Roca, maker of the sweetest desserts in Celler de Can Roca, has travelled to the Dominican Republic to personally meet Don Leonel, as well as other small producers who are prospering thanks to cacao.
“It’s incredible to see how cacao could transform the lives of people and their surroundings, especially with the support of institutions like the Foundation, which accompany them and boost their progress”, shared Jordi Roca. According to CAF – Development Bank of Latin America’s regional Cacao Initiative (ILAC), 90% of this production can be found in the hands of small producers with land extensions of less than five hectares. This is Don Leonel’s case, but also that of Dora Berroa, who, aside from growing this fruit, also produces all kinds of home-made sweets with natural ingredients. Both were able to find in BBVA Microfinance Foundation, the support they needed to move forward: Dora started with a 260-euro loan and now, after five loans, she hopes to someday open her very own “sweets factory”.
During his trip to Latin America, the land that gave birth to chocolate, the famous confectioner aims to make small producers more visible, “We have to give them due importance, especially when in most cases, cacao is their opportunity to progress and to give a better future for their family.”
There are 400,000 cacao producers in the Dominican Republic: 16.5% of them grow organic cacao, turning the country into the primary producer of organic cacao in Latin America, and and the eighth in the world. However, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, one of the main problems they face are the low productivity levels due to lack of resources.
“Jordi Roca’s visit is a support for small Dominican producers, who live in remote areas and who face difficult situations in life. Out of the 400,000 low-income entrepreneurs we serve, 1,500 of them grow cacao. Additionally, out of our credit clients, 62% are women, 42% live in rural areas and 58% possess primary education at best”, assured Banco Adopem’s president, Mercedes Canalda.
Jordi Roca gave a lecture hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to culinary students and the press. Until Thursday, he will journey different areas in the country to learn more about the reality of small producers and farmers like Diana Céspedes, who was visited by the queen last year, or Maribel Merán, who makes typical home-made sweets.