Stretching south from Panama through Colombia and into Ecuador, the Chocó Rainforest is one of the world’s most biologically rich ecosystems. It contains more than 11,000 species of plants, 900 species of birds, and according to the World Land Trust, “an extremely high number of species unknown to science.” Yet deforestation over the past several decades — first for banana production, logging, and now for palm oil — has whittled down the forest to just a fraction of its original size.
The film “Chocolate in the Jungle” — the third runner-up in the 2016 Yale Environment 360 Video Contest — documents efforts by a small group of Ecuadorians who are sustainably working the land in the Chocó Rainforest. This community of small farmers is growing cacao and selling the beans to French companies willing to pay four times typical chocolate prices for the organically grown crop. In order to be part of this venture, however, residents must leave at least 75 percent of their forested land unfarmed. “With time, you stop and think about what you have been doing,” says one Ecuadorian woman who farms cacao in the rainforest.
“Now you see everything is destroyed. It was all forest before. There were a lot of animals here and now they have no home because people aren’t doing the right work. It’s priceless. You cannot buy what we have here.”
About the contest: “Chocolate in the Jungle” is the third runner-up in the 2016 Yale Environment 360 Video Contest. Entries were received from five continents, with a prize of $2,000 going to the first-place winner.