Fanny Jibaja is the founder and executive Director of YAW! hola chocolate, a gourmet chocolate line that uses dried Peruvian fruits and nuts covered in high quality Peruvian chocolate.  Fanny was trained by a Swiss chocolate expert as part of an educational exchange with Switzerland.  In 2013, she was given the opportunity to hone her business skills and create a top notch business plan as a participant of Goldman Sach’s 10,000 Women Program in Peru.  Thunderbird School of Global Management designed the curriculum for this robust program which provided women entrepreneurs with 140 hours of classroom business training.  Fanny also received a student mentor from Thunderbird.

Last summer Fanny was contacted by DEVIDA, the governmental entity responsible for working on alternative crops for coca farmers who are selling their crops to the drug trade.  Based on Fanny’s experience in the area of cocoa and chocolate, as well as her training as a psychologist, DEVIDA enlisted her to provide training to 72 farmers in various districts of the jungles of Ayachucho, Peru.  This part of the country was hit especially hard by the 20 years of terrorism that plagued Peru in the 80’s and poverty is still rampant there.  Growing coca to sell to the drug cartels for the manufacture of cocaine is a very lucrative business.  The hope is that teaching these farmers how to use the fruits of their farmland to produce high quality chocolate and gourmet candies might provide them with an equally lucrative, yet legal, and more rewarding way to support their families.

In October Fanny traveled by plane from Lima to Ayachucho, then endured a rather bumpy 10 hour car ride to reach her destination in Santa Rosa in the Apurimac River Valley.  Farmers here have the benefit of a processing plant where for just 1 Peruvian Sol (about $0.33), they can bring their cocoa and have it processed into cocoa paste.  This paste can be used for cooking, making hot cocoa and other products but does not generate as much revenue as a finished product.  So Fanny set up her workshop to teach these farmers the painstaking process of refining the cocoa paste into high quality chocolate in the manner she learned from the Swiss.

With 72 students observing - and an interpreter for those who only speak Quechua, the native language of the indigenous people in this area of Peru – Fanny explained the process of ‘tempering’ which involves melting the chocolate in a microwave at a temperature of 45 ° C, pouring 2/3 on a marble table to work it with stainless steel spatulas in order to lower its temperature to 28 ° or 30 ° C, then raising it again to 32 ° C, until it finally acquires the correct brightness and consistency. But when she started the demonstration, Fanny realized there was no microwave on hand. Correction. After a search of the entire village, there was no microwave to be had anywhere.  Indeed, most of the locals had never seen nor heard of a microwave oven. As we all know, a key trait of the entrepreneurial personality is adaptability, so Fanny quickly improvised a double boiler to melt the chocolate.

Fanny also had to make do with wax paper in place of the marble table that the process calls for. Finally, the room temperature should be between 18 and 20 ° for working with chocolate so that it can harden.  Unfortunately, the temperature, which was unseasonably warm even for the jungle, was further exacerbated by the body heat of 72 observers, making it difficult to obtain results.   Using a small refrigerator, they managed. Fanny involved the students in the process of melting, working the mixture as it cooled to another exact temperature, then re-melting it, adding sugar, etc. until the finished product was met with rave reviews.

The local farmers were so excited by what they had learned that they also asked Fanny to demonstrate her technique for dehydrating fruits and covering them with chocolate.  Fruits grow in abundance in this jungle region, but many go to waste because of the excess.  Using nature´s harvest in a unique way could not only create another source of income for the local population, but also protect the environment.  Fanny demonstrated the process of making chocolate covered bananas and everyone was delighted with the result.  Other local fruits which Fanny suggested to these farmers – but didn´t have time to demonstrate – were oranges, cocoa, carambola and sesame seeds.

Since her workshop, several farmers have written to Fanny thanking her for sharing her knowledge with them. Some have offered their cocoa for sale and Fanny purchased a few kilos, but the farmers have some work to do in improving the quality of their cocoa beans before it would meet the standards for YAW! hola chocolate’s products.  Although the DEVIDA project has 

provided engineers to standardize and train the farmers in the post cocoa harvest processes of fermenting, drying and roasting, they report that there are still challenges in getting the local farmers to adopt these standards. In order to sell their crops faster, even if it means accepting a lower price, many farmers don’t follow the higher standards of production when they are unsupervised, which ultimately lowers the quality of their product.  Fanny tells me that with all the social problems in this region, it is a challenge to create the awareness of the potential market for higher quality products, especially since many of the farmers have been selling their coca crops to the drug trade for many years and being well paid for it, which has not been the case with their cocoa and coffee. Nevertheless, Fanny stays in contact with the engineer who is supervising the DEVIDA project and he keeps her updated on their progress.  Hopefully, some of these farmers can become suppliers to Fanny’s growing business and use the skills she taught them to increase the value of their own production.

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