These are our stories …

Six years ago Lisi Montoya became a chocolate maker in Lima, Peru, all because she was a chocolate lover and in Peru they didn’t have any real bean to bar chocolate. So she decided to make her own with Shattell. And now they are creating chocolate made with cocoa from different areas of the Peruvian Amazon basin.

Our Rokbar is made in Peru by Lisi Montoya (Shattell) with native cocoa from the Kimbiri region produced by farmers from the Asociación de Productores del Vrae. The farmers changed their crops from coca leaves to cocoa beans and coffee. Kimbiri beans are one of the most balanced Peruvian beans, with very smooth flavors: raisins, citric fruit, chocolate.

Lisi and Rokbar agreed to work together towards making a chocolate that is 100% made and owned by women. This to empower women and give them greater control over their lives. Most female members of the Asociación are single mothers. Lisi pays the farmers three times the regular price for their quality beans. The profits of our bars will flow back to these women helping them to improve their lives, the lives of their children and their community. These women will become an inspiration for other (young) women.

We believe that by manufacturing chocolate in origin countries, we are adding value locally, and for us this is the best way to help more women.

‘I have loved chocolate since I was a little girl. In Peru we didn’t have any fine chocolate, so about 10 years ago, I decided to make my own.’

– Lisi Montoya

I’m 48 years old. I’m originally from Cajamarca, where I grew up with my parents on a farm. Now I live in Pucacaca, Peru.

Growing up on a farm as the oldest of five children, I had to help my parents on the farm and in the house with the daily chores. I learned to milk cows and to make butter and cheese. We sold this in the village. Unfortunately my parents were poor and could not pay for our education, so I never went to college. Now as an adult, my greatest desire is to get a degree. I am a dedicated woman, working hard every day to improve myself. In my community everyone can count on my support whenever people, planet or animals are being treated unfairly.

My partner and I are not married but we are a family. We have raised my two children on the farm. My greatest wish is to be able to send my children to college to get a degree. To make this happen, I have been working in the cocoa fields for the last ten years. Cocoa is my source of income, I take good care of my trees and I harvest the cocoa pods carefully.

To every person in the world I would like to say: please take care of our planet, be gentle to her and all that she gives us. Please plant more trees and treat all creatures well. Not only for now but for our children and our children’s children. To all the women in the world I would like to say: we need to connect and support each other. Because together we can do and accomplish more.

‘We need to connect and support each other. Because together we can do and accomplish more.’

– Maria Esther Huaman Sangay

I’m 61 years old and I have been working in the cocoa fields for almost thirty years.

I was born and raised in Mishquiyacu, Peru. My parents were coffee growers, they were dedicated to the coffee plants, the farm and to the family. My childhood memories are painful because of all the terrorism and hardship we had to endure. We saw my cousins being murdered before our eyes. That moment marked our family to it’s core. After this happened we were forced to move and migrate to Pucacaca. You have to understand that in those days the drug cartels controlled the farmers with pressure and violence. They took away our possessions, killed our loved ones and took away our peaceful way of living. The drug cartels made us produce coca for them, we had no other choice than to obey. Our lives were in their hands. The moment my cousin was killed was a turning point. We escaped and left everything behind.

In Pucacaca we started all over, times were very hard and even got worse when the Peruvian peso devaluated. We managed to survive by sticking together and supporting each other. Now I’m married and I have three daughters and I am a proud grandmother of three grandsons! I work hard every day to keep my family safe and happy. In my community I am socially very active and I support people who need it.

My personal wish in life is to see my children and grandchildren live healthy and happy. I would like to be able to continue working on my small farm and produce good cocoa for the benefit of my family and community. My wish for the world is that we all are more conscious of what is happening to our planet. Please do recycle, keep on planting trees and clean up our rivers so that we have a chance to survive.
My advice to all women, if you work hard and put your mind to it, you will reach your goals!

‘If you work hard and put your mind to it, you will reach your goals!’

– Heresbith Chota Pinchi

I’m 68 years old and live in Pucacaca Peru.

My childhood memories are both beautiful and sad. My mother died while giving birth to my younger brother. Not long after that my father passed away too. We were raised by my grandmother. Things at my grandmothers were economically hard, so I had to help out in any way possible. My grandmother taught me how to make handmade fabrics, which we turned into colorful bags and belts. While we didn’t have much money, we did have a lot of fun and love for each other.

Thirty years ago I married a cocoa farmer. We work on the farm together and we were one of the first members of this cocoa cooperative. Together we raised eight children and we are now proud grandparents of twenty grandchildren. I would love to see my grandchildren grow up and be healthy and happy. I hope that our family will always stay close to each other.

Since my husband passed away, I do all the work on the cocoa farm by myself. My children have their own families now. The farm is very important to me, as it is my only source of income. I need the farm and the farm needs me. Besides the cocoa trees, I also have some chickens, turkeys, pigs and a small vegetable garden with fruits and vegetables.

In my community I am an active member of an environmental group. We work on preserving, caring and protecting our trees, plants and animals. My advice to other women in the world is: be true to yourself, follow your dreams and work hard to fulfill your goals. Be independent and make sure you can take care of yourself.

‘Be true to yourself, follow your dreams and work hard to fulfill your goals’

– Aide Salas Garcia

I am 53 year old and I live in Pucacaca, Peru.

My parents were farmers. I remember having a very nice, quiet and loving childhood growing up with my parents, my brother and my sisters. I was fortunate that my parents were able to pay for my education. I finished primary and secondary school.

My husband and I got married and we have two wonderful children. We decided to start our own farm growing different crops. Ten years ago we decided to start growing cocoa. We are working really hard to get our family business, cocoa and wood, going. People often describe me as a hard working woman, a warrior, that is committed to her home, family and farm. I like this description!

It worries me how people are treating the planet. We really need to take better care of it, so that we can continue living and working here and breathe pure and fresh air. To other women in the world my advice and wish is: keep working and fighting for your dreams and goals. Share your knowledge and wisdom with other women. Offer other women a helping hand and try, in any way, to empower others. That is the way we can grow as a sisterhood.

‘Share your knowledge and wisdom with other women’

– Jocabet Garcia Vasquez

I am 57 years old and I live in Pucacaca.

Growing up, my parents worked long hours on their farm. They left very early to harvest what was ready and then continued to the market in the village to sell the products. They often came home late in the evening. As I was the youngest child, it was my oldest sister who took care of me. Me and my brothers and sisters were responsible for taking care of the animals on the farm, the cleaning of the house and cooking meals. We all had to help out.

I always wanted to study and go to school but my parents had no money to pay for my education. Also, I was needed in the house and on the farm to help out. I struggled my whole live with not having a proper education. But other then that, we had a very loving childhood. When I got married, I left the family farm.

My husband and I work on our own farm now, we have five children and two grandchildren. Eight years ago, we started to grow cocoa, because we thought we could make more money with cocoa. We are now able to build up savings as a kind of pension, for later.

People often describe me as a leader in my community, an active and hard working woman. My biggest happiness is my family and our farm. My wish to you and your family is to have a good job and a happy and healthy life. My advice to you is: be sure and confident of yourself and your capabilities. When women work together and have good communication and empathy for one and other, we can accomplish anything.

‘When women work together, we can accomplish anything’

– Amparo Tananta Torres

I grew up in Daloa Side, 18 km from Bouaflé, in a small village in Ivory Coast. Here everyone is working in the cocoa fields. So for me to work as a cacao farmer was the thing I was supposed to do. I didn’t have the possibility to go to school, some of my siblings could go and some had to work. I was one of the ones who had to work. I am now married and have 3 children of my own, and I’ll do anything to make sure they all can go to school, study and get an education. My wish is that they grow up and have successful careers, and that they find happiness in their lives.

As for me, my dream is to be able to learn the craft of chocolate making, so that I can provide better living conditions for all of us. My joy and happiness in life is my family. Whenever I feel down or tired I think of them. I’ll never give up, there is always a way, giving up is not an option!

The workshops that we were able to take through Beyond Beans and Rokbar have been a pure delight for me. I met other women who are in a similar situation to me. We exchanged ideas and stories. I now know now not only about farming but also about chocolate making, the importance of a good bean, how the process works and how to make a chocolate bar. I will share this knowledge with my family, friends and village so that we can make better products.

It’s remarkable to see that with some small but important changes, we can make significant quality improvements to the chocolate and even more so that this can be accomplished using locally available materials. A dream come true would be if we in the future, when we have this process under control, can produce and sell our own chocolate. And maybe even join forces with the villages near us to make it grow even further.

‘As we add value into the chain of production, we add value into our personal lives as producers’

– Zouzou N’Guessan Helene

I come from a small village called Koudougou, about 5 kilometers outside of Bouaflé, Ivory Coast. I started farming at a very young age. I was lucky to be able to go to school. When I was in high school, in my 3rd year, my late husband convinced me to drop out and become his second wife.

Now I have 4 children that I take care of on my own; my husband died in 2015. After his death, I had to fight his family as I refused to remarry any of my husband’s brothers, which is a very common tradition amongst our people, the Malinke. But that is not all, I also had to fight tirelessly for months with my co-wife and her eldest sons over a small portion of the plantation of my late husband, so that I could have something to live on with my 4 children.

Another battle I had to face, was to enroll my second son to school, which as a widower is not an easy task. I must confess, that I have cursed the soul of my late husband for leaving me alone to face all these problems on my own. Now all of my children go to school except one, he had to stop due to my financial situation.

Through the Covima cooperative I was able to go to China for some agricultural workshops, and the knowledge I came back with has helped me develop myself and even grow my own vegetables and rice. I’m happy to share this knowledge with the community.

I still struggle every single day to produce and find enough food for us all. Sometimes I can’t close my eyes at night when I see that my children are counting on me to provide for them, and I often have nothing to give them, not even food. I dream of a better situation for us, with no hunger, and that I am able to properly take care of my children – get them through school and offer them a higher education. Maybe one day they will be able to travel, work on big projects and be happy. And maybe someday also take care of me.

I believe, for a woman, the most important thing is being able to be independent. You do whatever you need to do. Don’t just stand there and do nothing, fight for it! Go to school, work hard, together or alone, and you can get further in life.

Through the trainings we got from Beyond Beans and Rokbar, I have learned so much more about how to improve the cocoa process and therefore also the quality of the chocolate. The chocolate making is also something that is very intriguing to me and I will definitely try to develop it further. Maybe this way I can get a better and stable income, so that I can properly take care of my family.

‘What makes me happy in life is learning’

– Zagre Edith

I started farming at the age of 14, and at a very early age I realized that we are stronger as a group. So with 6 other members we started a small cooperative, which soon grew to 127 farmers. Today we are called Covima and have a total of 2776 members. I’m so proud of what we have accomplished!

I have always worked very hard, long hours and made a lot of sacrifices, but it’s all been worth it. I was able to send 3 out of my 5 children to study in Europe! I wish that all my children could get a higher education.

My dream is to, together as a family, be able to professionalize our production, take it to the next level and make our own chocolate. And if I dare to dream an even bigger dream, one day export our chocolate internationally. I believe that with hard work everything is possible, this is something I always told my children. So as a mother I’m very proud to see two of my daughters work their way up in the cooperative and become board members.

The Fruitlab project from Beyond Beans, Kumasi and Rokbar is very exciting, I have never heard or seen anything like it! By integrating this knowledge with Covima, we will have a unique opportunity to do things differently. We will become an example to other cooperatives, on how things can be done in this industry.

Through the FruitLab trainings I have learned how important every step of the chain is, and how it affects the final product. But also what it means for us, what we need to work on or do differently, what we need help with and how we can professionalize our production. Through the lab I have learned new skills, improved my old ways, and learned how to taste chocolate. Step by step, we are professionalizing our chain of production.

Hopefully soon, my wish will come true and we will be able to master the last piece of the puzzle, the making of artisanal chocolate. You see, this is our opportunity, to take a serious step away from poverty and towards a better life. I have never been able to go to school, so everything I am and have today is through hard work.

So to all women, my wish for you is to believe in yourself, be strong and never forget the power of agriculture.

‘As long as you take your work seriously you will reach your goals’

– Brou Oussou