For generations, the women of Santa Rosa Chivité, an isolated community in the eastern highlands of Guatemala, eked out a living cultivating corn, beans and cacao. Thanks to Trickle Up, they’ve gotten the training and capital needed to create a new line of artisanal chocolate that is now being sold to their neighboring communities and in restaurants located in the nearby city of Cobán.
You have to cross a suspension bridge to get to Santa Rosa Chivité, seven hours north of Guatemala City. The Quekchi, one of Guatemala’s largest indigenous groups, have lived here for centuries, managing a subsistence living growing a variety of crops like corn and chili peppers, and cultivating the cacao which grows in the hills. Each harvest determined the fate of the community for the coming year.
That began to change in 2004 when Trickle Up became involved through a partnership with CARE. The women of Santa Rosa Chivité sought out training to learn how to transform the cacao into chocolate they could sell. With the essential seed capital and training provided by Trickle Up, the women were able to buy cacao, sugar in bulk, a grinder and molds, and the project was launched.
What happened has transformed a village and created a cottage industry that has grown more successful each year.
In 2006, the first product—artisanal chocolate—made its debut. Using the new equipment and training they received from Trickle Up, this special chocolate could be used for cooking and making hot chocolate. It was successful and the women, eager to increase production and expand their product line, asked for more training. Working with an economist from the local university, they learned about the commercialization process, improved packaging, brand identity and how to obtain credit to expand their business. For the first time, they standardized the size of their product and even developed a logo for their chocolate—a hieroglyph of the Mayan gods drinking cacao.
In 2008, the Santa Rosa Chivité chocolate makers joined Aproderk, an agricultural cooperative of two hundred rural Guatemalan collective producers. Aproderk gave the women of Santa Rose Chivité access to new markets, and their products are now seen widely in local stores and restaurants.
Last year, the men of the village built a new building for the chocolate-making operation. Made of concrete blocks instead of bamboo, it is near a water source and has greatly improved health standards, thereby broadening the marketability of their products. The women of Santa Rosa Chivité now pride themselves on producing the highest quality organic artisanal chocolate.
The village has since prospered and now has its own school. The positive impact on the community is evident. A tilapia fish farm was started last year. The isolated town appears highly self-sufficient, producing coffee, raising chickens, pigs and fish, in addition to the traditional corn and beans. Ducks walk freely throughout the community, with different colored bits of bright ribbon that indicate their owners. The women are eager to expand the kinds of products they offer, and are experimenting with adding new flavorings, like a touch of cinnamon and even hot pepper.