In Ecuador, one tribe has swapped hunting for growing cocoa. The Waorani had noticed the game they hunted was increasingly hard to find. To combat the problem, an indigenous women’s group, the Association of Waorani Women of the Ecuadoran Amazon (AMWAE), created a program that gives cocoa trees to local women if their husbands give up hunting.
“They gave up hunting wild animals, and we took up farming without cutting down the forest,” said AMWAE president Patricia Nenquihui. Ten indigenous communities are participating in the project — 70 families who farm 25 hectares (60 acres) in the eastern provinces of Pastaza and Napo. The association buys their crop from them for $1.25 a pound — 45 cents above the market price — and sends it to the capital, Quito, to be made into chocolate. At first, the men were “upset” over the program, said Nenquihui. But the older generations admitted that hunters had to walk up to one full day through the jungle to hunt the animals they sold to provide for their families. “We opened our eyes,” said Ligia Enomenga, a 26-year-old widow who is raising her six children thanks to the money she earns growing cocoa. “Before, (the men) hunted a lot. Now they have joined the cocoa project and stopped killing animals,” she said.