On April 18, 2019, a ship called Tres Hombres arrived in an American port that made history. It was transporting cacao from Colombia, traveling by sailboat instead of a motorized engine. This is the first fair transport initiative in America since the development of motorized cargo.
This was made possible by River-Sea Chocolates’ Sail Cargo Project. Motorized marine vessels transport 90% of the world’s trade. If global shipping were a country, it would be ranked the sixth largest producer of greenhouse gasses.
The Sail Cargo Project’s mission is to encourage more sail-powered shipping and contribute to the restoration of sail cargo vessels. There are currently only four in the world that can still sail.
Krissee and Mariano began their journey with River-Sea Chocolates in 2017 when they and their children travelled to Brazil to visit family. While visiting Mariano’s cousin’s house, they discovered a cacao tree in the backyard and couldn’t help but climb up to pick some pods. After that, they travelled to a family friend’s farm and bought 10 kilos of cacao.
When they returned home to the U.S., they began crafting bean-to-bar chocolate in their small kitchen. It wasn’t long before friends were affectionately referring to Mariano as Willy Wonka, and to their home as the chocolate factory.
River-Sea makes their chocolate with cacao obtained by trading directly with rural farmers from countries across the world like Brazil, Nicaragua, Tanzania, Vietnam, Fiji, Peru, and India. Some farmers are too rural to afford a Fair Trade Certification, but River-Sea is committed to partnering with sustainable and ethical farmers. They pay a fair price for their cacao and contribute to the enrichment and growth of these communities.
The farmers who sent their cacao to the United States on Tres Hombres are indigenous farmers in the Sierra Nevada region of Colombia. They use traditional farming practices, and they also work with a project established in the area to end cocaine trafficking.
By Catherine Blankensop, Bloomington Intern