New Cacao Plantation

Guide to the graphic and video journal of our project ...

Truffelinos is part of the establishment of a new cacao plantation

During the 42-year history of Truffelinos, cacao production in Colombia has evolved in surprising ways:

  • The cacao-producing areas have expanded in the country, reaching new non-traditional regions.
  • The planted trees are better selected and more resistant to possible pests or diseases.
  • The procedures used during and after harvest are more technical and careful.
  • The commercial distance between growers and processors has been reduced in such a way that today we can enjoy the true characteristics of flavor and aroma that each region has to offer.
  • Cocoa, nowadays, is considered a «seed of peace», it is not only an excellent alternative to replace illicit crops but it is also a way to restore worn out or poorly maintained soils.

Therefore, Truffelinos, with the sponsorship of a group of European friends, has undertaken the planting of a new cocoa crop in the Arbeláez – Cundinamarca area.

Truffelinos - Origen - Flor del cacao
Cacao flower
Truffelinos - Origen - Fruto del cacao
Cacao fruit

Located in the Sumapaz province, Arbeláez is only 80 kilometers from Bogotá and is recognized for the variety of its agricultural production.

For many years it had an eminently panela (crystalized raw sugar) vocation. There were no less than 20 artisan sugar mills there and almost 100% of the farms were dedicated to the panela business. However, adverse conditions in this market forced the region’s peasants to seek other sources of income.

Sugar cane had caused significant damage to the region’s soils.

Today this has changed and it is possible to find varied fruit crops, some floriculture projects, a small amount of livestock, even some fish farming.

As an important innovation today it is also possible to find a cacao crop at «Cámbulos y Gualandayes» farm.

Arbeláez - Cundinamarca

Cámbulos y Gualandayes

It is the name of the first cacao-producing farm in the municipality of Arbeláez. In 2008 Mr. Roberto Vargas del Valle started the production of cacao despite not being a traditional product for this region.

By 2020, the Cámbulos y Gualandayes cacao farm has about 4 hectares with cacao trees in an agroforestry system in which there are also other products such as Lemon, Orange, Soursop and others.

The property’s name is derived from two beautiful native tree species, which adorn the region’s landscape when, in summer, they bloom.

«Cámbulos bloom red, Gualandayes blue» is part of a beautiful poem composed by Don Carlos del Valle and which we share in the form of a Bambuco (Andean Colombian folk music).

Truffelinos - Origen - Portón
"Cámbulos y Gualandayes" gate
Truffelinos - Origen - Hermanos Cubillos
Liuba and Rafael Cubillos. Young cacao growers

Liuba and Rafael Cubillos are two young farmers from the region. Rafael is a systems engineer and Liuba is finishing her agronomy studies. They are co-owners of the farm «La Querencia» in which we plan to plant 1,000 new cacao trees. With the training and instruction they will receive in the 
neighboring «Cámbulos y Gualandayes«, with the financial sponsorship of an anonymous patron and thanks to the facilitating task of Truffelinos, the goal is for these new plants to be in full production by 2026.

To all chocolate lovers, clients and friends of Truffelinos, we invite you to periodically visit this page where we will be presenting progress of the project.

Liuba and Rafael Cubillos

December
2021

On this last entry of the year 2021, we whant to share a bit of the everyday life in Arbelaez. For Truffelinos it is not only about cacao and the business we can make out of it. For us it is also importan the cultural aspect and the more humane side of the story we are sharing with you.

Rafael and Liuba invite us to share some seans of th chistmas celebrations, just as well as some parts of the town of Arbelaez. On this video you will see the school, the hospital, the sports center and the main squere of the town. It is interesting to note that in Colombia, small towns and big cities are build in a grid shape, this is part of our Spanish heritage. Our project is maybe some 30 minutes by car from the main square.

Whit this we close this first year of our project. Thank you for following us.

This new video comes with great news: Our project has now 1.000 cocoa baby trees. As Liuba will, very technically explain, we are at a critical stage. Trees are growing in the seedbeds under a shadow of aour special greenhouse.

In parallel with humans, it is like if they are in an incubator. For about 90 days they will receive very careful and loving care, as we wait for them to be big and strong enough to be planted on the field.

 

It is worth pointing out that for Liuba this is also a great learning experience. She is finishing her studies as an agricultural engineer, so for her this is an opportunity to complement the theory, learn in the classroom, with hands on the field job..

Certainly it is not easy to imagine all the hard work and the many steps there are behind any agricultural produce. In our case we have been following the new cacao plantation, but it seems like we have only be talking about bananas and beans. It is quite amazing to realize how nature interacts and to notice the symbiosis between different species, plants in our case; beans help nurture the soil and bananas provide shade for the cacao that is yet to be planted on the field.

Following this cacao story in the voices and images of Rafael and Liuba gives a new meaning to the idea of “future” and it is a great example of how what you do in present tense has a direct impact on what will happen tomorrow.

As the year nears to an end we have some news, coming from Arbeláez, to share.

Since our last report, in late November, Liuba and Rafael haven´t stop working and the project is advancing at a nice and steady rate.

As part of our philosophy we are trying to work in the most ecofriendly way. By recommendation of the Federacion Nacional de Cacaoteros technician we have to correct the content of nitrogen in the soil. One way to do this is by chemical fertilizers but we what to avoid this path as much as possible. So, as Liuba will explain, we are planting beans. They have the capacity to take this nutrient from the air and fix it to the soil. Yes, at some point beans will grow up, and the can be either eaten or sell by the family, as an extra benefit from this process. Liuba is also explaining that at some point the beans plants will be cut down and left to rotten in the soil, thus supplying the cacao trees with the much needed nitrogen.

November
2021

Eight months have passed and there is some wonderful news coming from Arbeláez, as Liuba and Rafael are explaining: The cacao seeds arrived to La Querencia and after detailed care they have germinated and are now growing in the green house that was built for them.

We are both happy and proud of the work done until this point. Now we have opened a door into the future of this new cacao plantation. From this point on we can only hope that nature will be generous and will give us the right conditions for the trees to grow strong and healthy.

On this new video the young cacao growers, show all of us how the process is done. As they share interesting technical and practical information.

October 2021

As we have been explaining all thru this journal, shade is very important for cacao’s development. On this new entry Liuba explains to us how new trees are introduced into the lot. It is interesting to note that in this case we are talking about nice tall trees (Nogal cafetero, Chicalá, Ocobo, cámbulo and Caracolí). They will not only be the shade for the cacao but also the home to birds that will enrich biodiversity at the farm. And, yes, they will also have nice flowers so when they are blooming the scenery will also be nice to look at.

Liuba also explains about some technical details. She talks about nutrients and about some eco-friendly strategies that are being implemented to provide the cacao with the soil it needs to prosper.

As you already know Colombia is located at in the tropics, this means that we don’t have summer and winter as in the northern or southern hemispheres, what we do have is rainy season and dry season. On a typical year, January, Februrary, July and Agust are dry months but from late March to early June and from late September to early December are Colombian’s two rainy seasons, miss called “Invierno” Winter. For the farmers water means life, moisture will guarantee that all crops will grow nicely. Rafael shows us what a rainy day looks in Arbeláez.

Septembre 28 / 2021 it is always nice to share new developments as they happen in Arbeláez. As you can see in the pictures, bananas are growing (they are now close to 100 cm high) but that doesn´t mean that there is no work to be done. Quite the opposite:

Weed control is always a must, we don´t want to waste soil nutrients in unwanted weed, all the nutrients should go to the bananas and later on to the cacao. Just to facilitate labor, this is done with a mechanical scythe.

It is interesting to note that Rafael is using ear protection. The scythe is loud.

As suggested by Fedecacao, some extra nutrients have to be put into the soil, in this case they are in a liquid form and it is an organic compound. Again, to make it easier, this is done with an hydraulic back tank, as shown in the pictures.

Weed Control
Adding fertilizer
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September
2021

September 25 / 2021, About 20 days after our last report, Rafael shows us how the banana has progressed. Some trees, unfortunately, did not thrive; this is simply due to the normal development of living things. They are going to be replaced with new ones.

September 9 / 2021, our Project was visited by a representative of the Federacion Nacional de Cacaoteros (Fedecacao). This is a trade association that provides technical assistance, on the ground, to cacao growers nationwide; it also promotes Colombian cacao in global markets and, finally, they do research in different aspects of cacao production.

After a very productive work session with Liuba and Rafael, two main conclusions can be point out:

  1. With just some minor adjustments, the soil at “La Querencia” is very good and it will sustain our cacao properly, and successfully. 
  2. At the begging of the project the idea was to buy the cacao «baby» trees at an external greenhouse. At the suggestion of Fedecacao, the plants will be germinated at “La Querencia”. This, in fact, will make the project even more interesting: This means more work to be done locally, less transportation cost, a better selection of individual plants and closer look to their development process.
Fedecacao Technician
Liuba an Rafael are learning
Banna is growing OK
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August
2021

August 25 / 2021: In Rafael´s voice we get a new report.

He wants to show how the banana is growing at a steady rhythm.

Not all the banana was planted at the same time; it was done in four stages in different parts of the lot.

Climate was bean generous with us and rain is not absent, of course that is very good news.

On each hole there is, although in a different development stage, a banana tree clearly showing above ground level. Banana is easily recognizable because of its big leaves.

Now, Rafael also explains that unwanted weed is growing around each banana tree. This weed will be cut off but they are also going to be used as natural fertilizer. This means that rotten weed will feed the bananas.

If you find this story interesting please let us know, we would really like to hear from our followers

Today is August 17th 2021. Banana trees are already growing and some of them are showing the first leaves.

The taller tree is about 50 cm tall and 6 weeks old.

The shorter one is about 15cm tall and only 3 weeks old.

«Venus» is watching and supervising the project.

50 cm tall and 6 weeks old
15 cm tall and 3 weeks old
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Late July 2021

It is interesting to know that cacao needs shade to grow. As you can see on the first pictures of this graphic journal (below) the field has no means to guarantee this key condition for the cacao. That presents an interesting challenge but also an opportunity to think about the environment. The question is ¿how can shade be provided in the most natural way possible? And the answer is Banana trees. Banana, is similar to a palm tree with very big leaves; they will be the ones providing the shade.

In our July visit to «La Querencia» we helped Rafael and Liuba to plant this Banana trees. It is a very hand intensive job, done one tree at a time. 

The field is marked in a grid shape. Imagine a chess board: at the corners of the squares a Banana tree is planted and on the center of each square, once the Banana is big enough, a Cacao tree will be planted.

Like noted above, it is now July, Bananas are less than 10 cm above the ground we have to wait until mid-December 2021, when they will be about 100 cm tall and then cacao will be planted.

Baby Banana tree
Planting
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The work in the field is arduos. Several days are required

to complete the task of planting 1,000 banana plants, which in the future will provide the necessary shade for an equal number of cocoa trees.

With much affection Truffelinos participates in this effort and we invite you to continue accompanying us on this journey.

As a prerequisite for the cocoa plantation, it is necessary to generate the shade that the cocoa needs to grow. This is obtained, naturally, by planting bananas. Its large leaves are the sustainable solution.

Join us in this process as we plant with Rafael and Liuba some of this banana plants.

A couple of day ago we went back to visit Rafael and Liuba. We wanted to check out the advance of the banana plants en eventually plant some of our own.

To make our bond with the brothers even tighter and warmer, but also to give it some extra level of seriousness we also signed a written agreement in which we all commit to work together to achieve our goal: A new cacao plantation.

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As we arrived to the project we were greet by a very special welcoming committee: Colombia is extremely rich in fauna and flora. It has over 4.000 different species of orchids, and among them the Cattleya Trianae, endemic to Colombia. Since 1936 it is considered to be the “National Flower”.

The Cattleya grows between 1500–2000 meters above sea level, in cloud forests. It is an endangered species due to habitat destruction.

No doubt it is quite a delight to see them in full bloom and in its natural environment.

 

Cattleya trianae

Early July 2021

Works at the field never stop and we are happy to share the latest developments.

Spots for the new trees are marked and the holes for the banana trees are being drilled.

On this new video Liuba explains to us a few interesting details about some technical aspects of the project. We invite you to watch the video and, why not, share a message with Rafael and Liuba at robertog@truffelinos.com.co

June 2021

Our journey continues. Some cleaning works have been done and Liuba and Rafael are working hard so they can start marking the spots in which each tree is going to be planted. 

But why don’t you listen to the story directly in the voices of the main characters of the story …

April - May 2021

Our plantation has begun. We are at a preliminary stage and we want to share it with you:

·         Soil tests have been ordered and results received. They check to be OK! For cacao plantation.

·         The lot is clean.

·         And we have the wooden stakes are ready for the next stage: Marking of the lot.

It takes very small steps to get to our goal but we are glad we are moving towards it.

Soil analysis bag
Results came … we are ready to go!
Wooden Stakes
Liuba is happy fixing the wooden stakes
Sampling the soil
Results are in: We are ready to GO!
Soil Sample
Soil looks nice and fertile
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It is interesting to share some basic information about our soil:

Due to the texture our soil can be describe as, loamy-clayey, physically ideal for cacao.

From the chemical point of view, the current conditions of the soil requires some adjustments and fertilizers so that the nutrition of the plant will be optimal. We can say this result was expected and we can work to make it better.

With this information we can calculate the type and amount of fertilizers to be used.

For more detailed information about our lot you can click on the picture.

Agrosavia, is a public entity in charge of generating scientific knowledge and technological solutions through research activities, innovation, technology transfer and training of researchers, for the benefit of the Colombian agricultural sector.

March 2021

Cacao field
Temporary tenants of the lot where we are going to plant the cacao
Water reservoir
Artificial lake for irrigation of cacao field
Panorama vista
Current view of the land to be intervened (March 2021)
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