On the Trail of Sweet Temptation

Original article appears in www.merkur-online.de. Written by Ilsabe Weinfurtner.

Posted in

Unterschleissheim – A five-member delegation traveled to Colombia to track the harvest of cocoa beans for their “town chocolate.” They wanted to gain knowledge on cocoa beans and fair trade. And so, they traveled on an adventure. The five-member Unterschleißheim delegation has experienced a lot during their visit to southern Colombia, near the Alto Fragua Indi Wasi National Park. To see how the people live and work, how they cultivate and harvest the beans, which are processed for the Unterschleißheim chocolate. To learn how the indigenous farmers are able to remove themselves from illegal coca cultivation, because they are paid fairly for their work with the cocoa beans. The town councilors Ernst Greb, Uli Piller and Tammo Winzer as well as Martin Birzl of the local Agenda 21 team and the Climate Change Manager of the town Unterschleißheim, Klaus Hecht, had anticipated all this for their journey to the department of Caquetá. To them, the Cacao-Chocolate Project should not only work as a business: it should bring people committed to the concept together. For the Unterschleißheim delegation, the week began in Colombia at the airport in Florencia, the capital of Caquetá. From there, the trip took their minibus to a simple hotel, where the Unterschleißheim team took up quarters. They battled the consequences of the time difference of seven hours, and acclimated themselves to the humid climate of the rainy season. Finally, they reached the hinterland. They barely escaped a landslide on a mountain road, says Hecht calmly, as he days later was sitting in his office in the Unterschleißheim Town Hall. The destinations were the two villages of Belén de los Andaquies and San José del Fragua. Two settlements, each with about 8,000 inhabitants, a two and a half hours drive away from Florencia. Contact was made with the Amazon Conservation Team (ACT), a nonprofit organization in the United States. A representative of the organization attended the meeting. But because Unterschleißheim Climate Manager Hecht speaks fluent Spanish, a direct conversation with the people was possible, including with the Mayor of Belen de Andaquíes, Uriel Mejia Jaime Zuluaga. He was a young, dynamic man, says Hecht. Someone who is open-minded toward strangers. Who likes talking about his community and its people. Who is interested in the climate partnership with Unterschleissheim’s Cacao-Chocolate Project and its partners, Hannover, Oldenburg and Magdeburg. It was an exciting experience for all involved. As Hecht says, the indigenous farmers are not only interested in alternative crops. They want to obtain information on renewable energy and climate projects. The members of the Unterschleißheim delegation are delighted to gain new information toward saving the rainforest. "We need to know how important the National Park is for the Indians," says Hecht. The healing plants that grow there, for instance, are "significant resources" that need to be preserved. They also became familiar with the steps involved in the harvesting and processing of the beans that would later become the Unterschleißheim chocolate. Farmers strike the cocoa fruit with a machete. The beans are embedded in the flesh. The fruits sit for some time in wooden crates. After two to three days, the pulp ferments. The beans loosen and then are set out to dry. When they are dry, they are packed in agave-fiber sacks. The bags are screen printed with a logo. It is important to make clear that only the beans in these bags will be consumed as Unterschleissheim’s chocolate. The bags are brought to Cartagena and from there shipped to Rotterdam before they reach the Odenwald. There, in the Wilhelm Eberhardt concern, assistant manager Helmut Gräber and his team process the beans for the “official town chocolate.”

 

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