If you have eaten chocolate then you will know the reflex action that is accompanies the taste, and expression mirrored in one’s face. A tender smile accompanied with a moment of satisfaction, relief from all worries; the natural reaction to satisfaction. All of these are the sentiments felt at that moment, the unique taste that everyone surely remembers from their childhood.
Not many people have had the privilege of knowing the history of the farmers who for years have passionately cared for the cacao seed. Nurture it in fertile land and water till it grows into a fruitful tree; those that have guarded the land and have fought for their dignity and rights. Maybe the full story may help you appreciate the chocolate (cacao) seed even more.
As part of Seed Learning Exchange (intercambio) tour, I travelled to Barrancabermeja with Irianeth Barrera. She is the pastor of the Mennonite Brethren Church in Bitaco (Valle del Cauca), a member of the Mennonite Brethren Council central committee (DIHMENO), secretary of the regional agricultural cooperative initiative committee. Through the help of MCC and John Henry (Seed Participant in Barrancabermeja) the Mennonite Brethren Church Council made contact with CPT in the Magdalena region. As a result DIHMENO was interested in one of the communities (Garzal). The Garzal community evidently had good community organization. Over the past years it had developed an efficient farming and distribution system that has improved the community`s economic and social development.
For Dihmeno visiting the Garzal community was ideal and would be an excellent opportunity to help generate new ideas. Our main interest was to learn more about Garza’s agricultural produce, distribution system and community organization. However, what we learnt was more than the cacao. Don Salvador (community elder) shared with us the tale of Garzal`s spiritual prayer journey, and the physical action which the community took in order to realise their sweet hope; hope of a peaceful society, living in a nation that respects their heritage, dignity and protects them and their land. For years Garzal has fought for their land in a peaceful ways. They constantly receive threats from paramilitaries and little assistance from the local government.
Today Garzal is one of the few communities in Colombia that has more than 100 families that have received legal land titles; the region produces some of the best cacao in the country. However Garzal people still live in constant fear and uncertainty due to paramilitary and military presence in the region. Many families are still waiting for land tittles and hope to someday farm their land in secure and peaceful conditions. For more history and current affairs of Garzal refer to the following links.