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Chocolate Cordillera achieves early wins for its female cocoa farmers

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By Anthony Myers

- Last updated on GMT

The class of '23 - ATENEA's first graduates celebrate completing module 1. Pic: Chocolate Cordillera
The class of '23 - ATENEA's first graduates celebrate completing module 1. Pic: Chocolate Cordillera

Related tags WCF Cocoa Sustainability Cordillera Chocolate

At the end of 2023, Colombian sustainable brand Chocolate Cordillera announced that 106 female cocoa farmers from Urabá Antioquia had completed the first module of its ATENEA sustainability program, giving some the confidence to become fully independent and start their own businesses. Alejandra Sarasty, Chief Global B2B Officer at Colombia’s Compañia Nacional de Chocolates (owners of Chocolate Cordillera), explains the significance of the milestone for the women directly involved and the cocoa sector in general.

“Cordillera is part of Groupo NUTRESA and is fully committed to building a sustainable business,” she says in our podcast interview. There are 65,000 cocoa-growing families in Colombia, and we work directly with them - that has been going on for 66 years, even when the word ‘Sustainability’ was absent when discussing business.

"We have believed in the importance of sustainability for a long time, and we've been working directly with cocoa farmers for all of these years."

‘ATENEA – Women Who Transcend’ is the company’s sustainability initiative with a ‘higher purpose,’ developing the capacities of rural cocoa-growing women to improve their quality of life and that of their families and communities while maintaining Colombia’s unique ecosystem.

Alejandra Sarasty with two female cocoa farmers Cordillera
Alejandra Sarasty congratulates two female cocoa farmers on the ATENEA program. Pic: Chocolate Cordillera

Sarasty explains the concept further: “So last year, Cordillera, our B2B brand, targeted and developed, I would say the first of its kind, on this scale, a sustainability program targeting cocoa-growing women, rural women to build a program to establish capabilities specifically.

“We believe in the power of women to impact and generate a transformation on a larger scale. We believe that we're not impacting an individual when we impact women. We're impacting a family. We're impacting a community and on a larger scale.

“So we built ATENEA as they navigate the program based on and inspired by the United Nations Sustainability Agenda.”


Sarasty says that in less than a year, the program has had significant early wins, milestones that they did not expect to reach at such an early stage.

Notable achievements include some women already starting their own companies, including a cookie shop, an ice cream shop, and two chocolate companies.

“They are startups, and it has already generated additional income for the farmers and their families,” she says.

The first training module, "Entrepreneurship in the processing of chocolate products," has been completed. Now, the women move on to Module 2: Financial Education for Rural Women before ending the program with Module 3: Female Empowerment.

Sarasty and colleagues from Chocolate Cordillera will present more of their findings during Amsterdam Cocoa Week next month when they will be attending the CHOCOA sustainability conference and the World Cocoa Foundation Partnership Meeting.

Aligning for cocoa action

The theme during the week-long sessions will be ‘aligning for cocoa action.’ Chocolate Cordillera is a WCF partner, and Sarasty says the aligning together message has to be taken seriously.

“We've seen in the past six months cocoa prices soaring, globally there have been disruptions, political disruptions, economic, social disruptions worldwide … this calls for every one of us involved in the cocoa and chocolate value chain to work together …. the word ‘competitors’ should disappear because global action means we're all in here. There's just one planet.”

  • Check out the interview with Alejandra Sarasty in full by listening to the podcast.

Related topics Confectionery Colombia

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