Sierra Nevada: Biodiversity hotspot

With ecosystems ranging from coral reefs to rainforests to snow-clad mountains, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Northern Colombia provides a habitat for outstanding biodiversity. Forty-four endangered animal species are found here – some of which are found nowhere else on Earth, like the critically endangered Cotton-top Tamarin and the Sapphire-Bellied Hummingbird. The shore of La Lengüete, in the heart of the Arhuacos ancestral land, is a crucial nesting site for the endangered green turtle.

In the extremely water-rich region 35 river basins emerge from the mountains, running into more than 700 rivers that provide clean water to millions of people in the lowlands. Sadly, land grabbing, deforestation, illegal mining, slash-&-burn agriculture and hydroelectric dams continue to pose a threat to the area’s wildlife and water sources.

A new beginning for an ancient cacao

Forced into the highlands for centuries by conquistadores, settlers and The Coca Wars, the Arhuaco have recently returned to their ancestral lands and sacred sites at the Caribbean shores of La Lengüete.

Here, they are initiating the revival of a rare cacao bean that almost became extinct hundreds of years ago when Spanish conquerors mistakenly thought the extremely rare white cacao bean was infected and cut the trees. Luckily, some of the old cacao trees survived in the shade of the wilderness and the Arhuacos recently started to harvest the precious cacao again. They named it “Businchari” which means “new beginning”  – and that’s exactly how they see their recent return to their tribal lands.

Guardians of ‘the heart of the world’

For the Arhuaco tribe the water-rich Sierra Nevada with all its cozy water streams, wild rivers, deserted Caribbean shores and ancient cacao trees is the “heart of the world” which keeps the earth in balance. The Arhuaco tribe is genuinely protective of its cultural and ecological heritage but preservation remains a struggle.

Recently their territory was contaminated by poisonous herbicides that were used by government forces to eliminate coca plants during the drug wars. The planned construction of hydroelectric dams in the region would interfere with the water cycles of the mountains and pose a threat to their crops and livestock. Meanwhile, illegal deforestation by settlers and private business has not stopped. The ancestral Arhuaco lands are exposed to many threats, but the Arhuacos continue fighting to keep the ‘heart of the world” alive.

Empowering the Arhuaco

In partnership with the Arhuaco tribe council, Cacao de Colombia and the local forest agency, Original Beans supports the preservation of the acutely rare Bunsinchari cacao and its rainforest home. Together we empower the Arhuaco tribe to make a better living with ultra-premium and forest-friendly cacao, while protecting one of the most biologically diverse rainforests on our Earth. We help plant cacao forests that will function as buffer zones and provide a sustainable land use model for the Arhuaco on the forest frontier. Furthermore, we support the tribe by providing training in cultivating cacao, drying and fermentation techniques.

With your purchase of Arhuaco Businchari you support us and also provide the means to plant or preserve a tree in the Arhuaco ancestral lands!