We are often asked, why we believe in the Chocolate Road. The answer is simple: Because we believe that the Chocolate Road will give a positive impulse for a change towards healthy growth in tourism – as a successful destination as well as best practice example. Based on the four principles of cooperatives – solidarity, identity, participation and democracy – we draw the following conclusions on the social, ecological and economic level:
A project growing from the inside, as quick or as slow as the people involved determine on a democratic basis and in conditions agreed upon by all participating parties, has clear advantages over “classical” top-down initiated projects.
Admittedly, cooperatives also live with the flaws of democracy, e.g. longer decision-making processes. However, El Ceibo successfully works for 38 years, which is much longer than any government can claim for itself in the past 4 decades in Bolivia. El Ceibo has been growing ever since its foundation in 1977 and has developed and added new fields of business – tourism being next. Additionally, the whole region profits from the cooperative. They provide scholarships and chances for future generations.
El Ceibos cocoa is organic and certified. Good prices can only be held up by good quality – a trend which is going to grow even stronger among producers as well as consumers. Successful tourism destinations are based on the conservation of nature and local cultures, because what they offer is less determined by demand than by social and ecological agreeability. Everybody knows: Destroyed landscapes do not attract tourists and the lack of authentic local cultures leads to a lack of visitors.
Without doubt, the long-term objectives of the Chocolate Road project include the improvement of the local populations living conditions, stability in income and partial independence from agriculture. However, the economic benchmarks for these objectives are defined and set by the cooperative itself. Hence, it can be assumed that the levels of productivity and efficiency will be more than satisfactory, because all stake holders stand behind the project – just as we do.
Our conclusion: One more good reason to join in and participate in the creation of an exemplary tourism destination.