Cruz Elena Echenique
“My beginnings within the cocoa farming work date back to 36 years, after having given birth to my first child, and even though I was born in a cocoa family - as the only child - my parents did not want me to work in this field, they would have expected me to lead a different life, being a cocoa farmer in those years wasn’t a profitable option. Even though my father was a big landowner our hopes and expectations were unpredictable. But life made turn my head to cocoa, so I started working as a cocoa collector and I was already living with my husband. During the months of June, July, August and mid-September there was nothing to harvest and life was tough so I had to carry out alternative farming activities - piling, planting, ploughing, etc. - but what I’m best at is cocoa collection.
It was after 23 years working for someone else that my husband and I took the decision to lead our own cocoa farm, it was very hard at the beginning because we faced jealousy and sabotage by other people. It took us a long time and difficult scorching summers to work the land, and I had to make with my children’s help spring water wells to irrigate cocoa piles so they wouldn’t dry up and grow garden centres. Whenever we fell down or didn’t see future, the cocoa trees and their leaves would give me strength to carry on.
We had to work hard to bring up 10 children, there was no chance to give up. Our best plantations came from our ‘Samán’ farm and they were the best and most fruitful pods. I learnt from these pods that direct plantation practices are better as long as we know the quality of the soil. In my experience, working hard to build your own cocoa farm has been the best option, it isn’t easy but it has set a legacy in the life of my children, and when I look at the world of cocoa the best decision we made has been to own our trees, our pods, our future it has set us free from the slavery I witnessed in my youth days. Little by little we will lift ourselves out of poverty... Cocoa production is a boom right now and we can only hope and pray for the best!”