SEAN A. HIGGINS
January, 2016: 60,000 new cacao seedlings and several hundred new vanilla clones!
We have had some significant help from MicroEmpresas Colombia, along withn some help from SwissAid in getting our vanilla established. The equivalent of our state and county agricultural offices have also helped enormously, providing us with the materials to plant... 60,000+ new cacao trees! We still desperately need a wide variety of agricultural tools and materials, as well as infrastructural materials to establish, for example, the proper irrigation mini-canals.
Beyond that we need equipment for the fermentation and drying of cacao seed, along with presses used in the production of cocoa butter ("manteca de cacao") and so much more. With our vanilla, there is so much happening so fast, with some potential major news waiting to be confirmed, that it bears follow-up in the near future. Suffice it to say that we have attracted the attention of some scientists and PhD students specializing in orchids, particularly vanilla, and it appears that among the various trails we've opened up in the NorthWest Chocó in search of wild vanilla we may have (a) discovered two new species (but certainly new sub-species or "varietals") and (b) have contributed to the finding that it appears that the Chocó may have the highest density of wild vanilla (non-introduced) per kilometer squared... anywhere in the world!
And there's more, mostly though we need to continue planting both cacao and vanilla in these lands given us, taken back from cocaine lords from Cali and Medellín.
June, 2015: After more than two years of on-going, persistent effort, I have accomplished one of the goals I am most proud of attaining in my life. At the end of 2012 I resolved to return to Colombia in an attempt to organize a small regional cooperative devoted to the rehabilitation and propagation of small (under 10 acres) cacao farms, ideally supplanting and re-vitalizing land that had been taken hostage by cocaine Capos in the 70s and 80s.
> Last week, the Colombian government's regional Office of Agriculture, located in the Chocó's capitol of Quibdó, awarded "official status" to the cooperative I've pulled together. In addition, the municipio (county) gave our 50 member families each one hectare (2.47 acres), land that was held by the government after being confiscated from drug lords & their associates! It is worth noting that the majority of our members have not owned much in the past, certainly not titled land... So here we go! (May 28, 2015)
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