My name is Maria Fernanda Andrade, I’m part of the 3rd generation of bananas, cane sugar, cacao and pineapples farmers family in Ecuador. After living in Mexico for some years and returning to Ecuador with my own family, looking for new horizons in agriculture, we had an unplanned encounter with cacao, then together with my husband Luis I started to grow cacao trees.
Due to safety reasons some months later, we were forced to stop all at once. Soon after this - just like our unplanned cacao encounter - we had an unexpected chocolate encounter during a work trip! And since I had a background in food engineering, we decided to put our eyes on chocolate making.
At that moment we realized cacao had truly conquered all our hearts and then Kuná chocolate was born in 2012.
From the beginning of Kuná, based on our own personal experience as cacao growers dealing with unfair commerce conditions and knowing many aspects of cacao farming, we decided to work directly with farmers in a way that our chocolate could become a tool to deliver the most benefit as possible to our partners in the farms, while being healthy, tasty and contribute to the environment.
After a period of evaluation and search for great sustainable beans we started our partnership with Winak and other cooperatives in Napo, whose members live in villages around the Sumaco biosphere reserve, later we have found other organizations that help us with their lovely beans.
Over time when we worked together with farmers, we witnessed the influence of women in cacao;
70% of Winak and the other groups of farmers membership is made from women, and they have a strong relationship with cacao. Women usually run the family farm and personally take part in daily labors such as harvest, plot maintenance and fresh beans selection, sometimes by their self or together with their families.
Their working day usually starts before daylight no matter the conditions or extra duties in the farm, so we get very excited when we look to each of them coming out from their ‘chakras’ (family farms) and receiving a fair payment right at the time of delivering their cacao beans.
Photo: Beatriz and daughter in her 'chakra' (typical kiwcha farm) in Ardilla village, surroundings of Sumaco biosphere reserve.
Five years after the beginning our chocolate journey, we looked back to our land and started our own plot of biodiverse organic heirloom cacao varieties just around our small place of production;
Our farm is near a village called Patricia Pilar, in the province of Los Rios. Los Rios is very renowned because of the old tradition of 'arriba' growers zone. We have the huge blessing to be located right in the middle of our own cacao trees, in fact we sleep just a few meters away from cacao trees.
In Patricia Pilar we; Digna, Flor, Karen, Laura and myself, receive those beautiful beans from Guayas, Esmeraldas, Manabí or Los Rios cooperatives and transform them into Kuná chocolate. See photo below:
Throughout this time, we have had the opportunity to experience the impact of cacao and chocolate in the life of our partners, our team, and ours; some of them had the chance to graduate, send their kids to school or improve their family life conditions. By their effort and commitment, we have had the chance to share a craft conscious chocolate with the world, we hope to continue this incredibly special adventure for a long time.
Where can I buy Kuná?
Enjoy the fine taste of Kuná chocolate, and support Maria, her family, and all the cacao farmer families by buying Kuna chocolate in our webshop.
Or visit our chocolate shop in Amsterdam's old city center (check Google Maps).
Women in Chocolate
From March-May we highlight female cacao farmers and chocolate makers in our blog posts and on our social media. Read all about it here.