I’ve actually tried some Bolivian chocolate which is from the Alto Beni region of North-western Bolivia which is where only a small fraction of Bolivia’s cocoa is grown and harvested (see the reviews Original Beans and Demarquette. The Original Beans Beni Wild Harvest was a cracking bar but a little dry, which was probably from the fact that this bar didn’t have any emulsifiers.
Today there are a number of co-operatives that have sprung out of the shameful and exploitative regimes of the past. The Alto Beni region may only have been colonised since the 1960′s when a number of them were given small farms by the government in the El Ceibo co-operative which eventually went bust. The outcome of this was that the farmers had to use intermediaries which meant that their incomes sharply dropped as the prices they received were much less than before. During the 1970′s the El Ceibo farmers formed their own cooperative and eventually in 1997 joined the Fair Trade System and now include 36 small co-operatives. Although most of the cocoa grown in Bolivia actually comes from the southern areas of Bolivia where the weather is more conducive to production.
Even with the government involvement to increase cocoa production, cacao often grows wild, and this cocoa was used to make the Original Beans bar that I tried. In fact 50% of Bolivia is rich tropical rain forests. The problem of this is that the wild cacao is at risk from unlicensed deforestation via timber companies. Bolivia has also been blighted by “Witches’ Brook” and a “Genetic Improvement Plan for Wild Cocoa Production, Through Population Management” is being designed by Dr Martine Beek to help increase resistance to the disease and stimulate production levels as well as improve the standard of living of at least 2,000 families through better cocoa production practices.