Peace and chocolate

A community in Colombia finds an unusual way to work for peace

A man stands between two trays of cacao seeds

What does embodying the peace of Jesus look like in the face of violence? For some people living in the Chocó region of Colombia, the answer involves an unexpected ingredient – chocolate.

Families living in Chocó face significant obstacles. Armed groups have expanded into the region, bringing illicit activities and violence with them. The area is also isolated from the rest of the country, leading to few opportunities to safely earn a living.

Many families support themselves best through farming. But harvest season brings a particular challenge. There’s little demand for unprocessed crops in the community, so earning an income means traveling significant distances to bring the harvest to market. But reliable transportation can be complicated by the violence present in the region.

Mennonite Central Committee’s local partner, the Mennonite Brethren church, saw their community struggling and wanted to help. “The Anabaptist churches here have used the framework of ‘life abundant’ [found in] John 10:10 to live out the gospel in their context, a way of insisting on the holistic peace embodied by Jesus,” said Elizabeth Miller, MCC representative for Colombia.

A man sorts through a tray of cacao seeds
Through a cacao project run by MCC partner Weaving Hope Agricultural Foundation (FAGROTES/Fundación Agropecuaria Tejiendo Esperanza), Luis Norberto Mosquera received technical assistance in cultivating and processing cacao, and his farm is now used as a model for other farmers in the project. Growing Hope Globally photo/Alex Morse

That holistic peace is more than just a wish. True peace involves the opportunity for everyone to have life abundant and earn a dignified living. Working with the community, MCC’s partner FAGROTES (Fundación Agropecuaria Tejiendo Esperanza, Weaving Hope Agricultural Foundation) first opened a rice processing plant and committed to purchasing farmers’ harvests. Then, they expanded into training the farmers how to grow cacao, the plant used to make chocolate.

Thanks to the Mennonite Brethren’s decades-long reputation of peace and a firm commitment to not affiliate with any of the armed groups in the region, our partner was also able to safely open and operate a chocolate processing plant in the community.

Now the farmers can turn their cacao harvests into a finished product. The chocolate bars are then sold in the community, allowing farmers to safely earn an income while also helping the local economy.

That’s the power of peace in action.


Header photo caption: Luis Norberto Mosquera dries cacao seeds on his farm in Chocó, Colombia in 2018. He received training in growing and processing cacao through an MCC partner. Growing Hope Globally photo/Alex Morse