Newswise — The Carmen del Emero Tacana indigenous community from Bolivia’s biodiverse Madidi landscape was presented with the International Cocoa Award in a recent ceremony held in Paris, France.

Held this year in late October, the International Cocoa Awards are hosted by the Salon du Chocolat every two years and is the only competition of its kind recognizing the work of cocoa farmers and celebrating the diversity of cocoa flavors globally. ICA is a part of the Cocoa of Excellence Program (CoEx)—spearheaded by Biodiversity International and Event International. The prestigious award recognizes producers’ work based on the quality, flavor and diversity of cocoas according to their origin.

“We commend our local partners from the Tacana indigenous land for winning such a prestigious prize for their innovations in balancing development with conservation and consolidation of indigenous land rights,” said Dr. Lilian Painter, Country Director for WCS’s Bolivia Program. “Such international recognition is a validation for their efforts.”

“The effort to produce excellent cocoa is undertaken with the principle objective of strengthening the economic initiatives of local communities, while contributing to the conservation of forests in one of the most biodiverse landscapes in the world,” said Dr. Robert Wallace, Director of WCS’s Madidi Landscape Program.

Competition for the top prizes in the international award ceremony is stiff. Some 50 cocoa samples are selected by judges from a total of 146 submissions, from a range of 35 countries. From the shortlist, 17 samples were awarded the prize for being the highest quality among industry standards.

Each shortlisted sample was evaluated in its final chocolate form, after being objectively processed and evaluated by 26 expert chocolatiers. Among the top 17 were two samples from the Bolivian Amazon region, one of which was collected and processed by the Association of Cocoa Producers of Carmen Silvestre of Emero (APROCACE), a collective representing the Carmen del Emero Tacana indigenous community.

Carmen del Emero is located to the east of Bolivia’s Madidi National Park, along the banks of the Beni River. The region is known for its abundance of wild cacao (over 3,000 hectares), and its forests preserve a high genetic variability and good management practices enhance its productivity. The traditional and familiar nature of its cocoa collection and processing has been enriched with technological innovations: the bean is fermented in wooden crates and dried in the sun on tables also made of wood. The result is a perfect combination of aromas and flavors that the beans release during the roasting process.

This successful initiative was made possible with the support of the Indigenous Council of the Tacana People (CIPTA), scientific and technical collaboration provided by Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation and WCS, and financial support from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation under the project to support cocoa production in Northern Tropical La Paz.

For more information on the Salon du Chocolate, pleasevisit: www.cocoaofexcellence.org/