In 2019, Equal Exchange, a worker-owned co-op, worked alongside ACOPAGRO cacao co-op of Peru, to foster a delegation opportunity like no other. A blend of Equal Exchange worker-owners and customers traveled three hours from the nearest city by boat to learn about cacao farming in the Amazon basin and stayed with gracious hosts who opened their homes and lives to share in this experience. The hosts were all part of the Dos de Mayo committee of ACOPAGRO co-operative. Because of their remote location, they do not receive many visits from other members, co-operative staff or visitors so they were particularly excited about this opportunity. The brief time spent at the committee was full of mutual respect, appreciation, learning, and fun! 

Out of this delegation came the idea to source cocoa beans for Equal Exchange’s chocolate chips directly from the two ACOPAGRO committees that had hosted the most recent delegations. In late 2019, in Equal Exchange’s annual negotiations with their Peruvian chocolate chip manufacturer and ACOPAGRO, ACOPAGRO’s export manager, Pamela Esquivel suggested that instead of an aggregate lot of cocoa beans, which could come from any of their approximately 100 base committees, Equal Exchange could source beans solely from Dos de Mayo and Shepte, the two communities that Equal Exchange and their sister cooperative, La Siembra, had personally visited. It was a brilliant idea that would prove to create even more transparency and further build upon their relationship. After working out the details, in late 2020, ACOPAGRO shipped its first lot of origin cocoa beans from Shepte and Dos de Mayo to be made into Equal Exchange’s chocolate chips. In 2021, Equal Exchange received their first chocolate chips made with a blend of the origin cocoa beans.

Ormindo Rios Nuñez showing visitors how to prepare and apply organic fungicide to diseased cacao pods. Photo provided by Equal Exchange

To learn about the Equal Exchange Origin Bean program, and how so many lives have changed for the better, read an interview with ACOPAGRO’s Pamela Esquivel, and find out how this journey continues for her, and the families in Dos de Mayo and Shepte.