By Sylvana Urbina
Five hours by bus, 3 hours in a 4×4 truck, 10 minutes in a very small barge and 1 hour of walk is what takes to arrive from Quito, Ecuador to the community of Tesoro Escondido “Hidden Treasure”, located in one of the most biodiverse places in the world, the Chocó rainforest. This place is home to families of growers of the best cacao in the world (Arriba Cacao), who have the forest as their backyard. It is also the habitat of endangered species like the brown-headed spider monkey, the great green macaw, the long-wattled umbrella bird and the glass frog, among others.
I arrived to Tesoro Escondido in February 2015 to help Proyecto Washu (a local NGO) with the implementation of a sustainable development program that aims to integrate the production of high quality cacao beans with the conservation of the forest. My plan was to stay for three months, but felt so in love with the place and the people, that stayed for more than a year.
When I first travelled from Quito to Tesoro Escondido I was impressed of all the hectares of pastures and extensive crops of cacao and palm oil that were along the road, but as I was getting closer to my destination, the landscape started to change; there were less towns, less extensive farming, and more trees, more birds, more clean water streams and beautiful wooden houses hidden within forest and small plots of Arriba Cacao.
Follow me on this journey throughout beautiful landscapes, unique wildlife, sustainable cacao, amazing people, and chocolate, lots chocolate!
About the Author
Sylvana Urbina is a Colombian biologist currently studying an MSc in Global Biodiversity Conservation in the University of Sussex, UK. She has worked in scientific research of neotropical primates, mitigation of environmental impact and sustainable community development. She is interested in the integration of scientific research, economic alternatives and education to promote conservation in Latin-America.