Rural Peru Celebrates Holidays with Co-operative Magic

“The Chocolatada is something magical, it is a time to come together, to be joyful and to thank God for what we have,” says Isella Torres Castillo. The Chocolatada is a Christmas tradition in Peru. Organisations, including businesses, NGOs, and churches offer a bit of Christmas cheer to children from developing communities and their families. ‘Chocolatada’ is loosely translated as ‘hot chocolate drink’. During the event, cups of hot chocolate, bread or Panetón (a sweet bread with dried fruits inside), some sweets, and toys are given out to children. Every year, the Norandino Co-operative draws the name of a primary co-operative or zone out of a hat to determine which area will host their Chocolatada. This year, the beautiful, but isolated Carmen de la Frontera, in Huancabamba was selected.

“The fact that Carmen de la Frontera was chosen this year means so much to our community.” Isella explains that such rural areas, deep within the highlands of Piura, are some of the most forgotten villages in Peru. However, “the Chocolatada with Norandino was a very special day for the children and the families here, and you can see that everyone has a smile on their faces. This is the first time the children have ever seen Santa.”

At the age of 29, Isella Torres Castillo is a leader in her community, the mother of an 11-year-old boy named Snider, and the vice-president of the Zonal Carmen de la Frontera of the Norandino Co-operative, of which she has been a member for the past six years. The Norandino Agricultural Co-operative works with small producers of cacao, coffee and brown sugar in Northern Peru to improve the lives of families through trainings, and access to storage facilities and local and international markets.

Norandino is a partner of CDF Canada’s INVEST Co-op Peru project, which creates sustainable livelihoods by strengthening small producers’ position in agricultural markets. The quality and quantity of cacao and coffee increases, and farmers’ financial literacy and management skills improve. Isella is currently enrolled in one of INVEST Co-op Peru’s leadership schools, which train future leaders in self-esteem, business management, the co-operative model and principles, as well as gender equality.

Reporting from the highlands, or ‘sierra’ in the Northwestern province of Huancabamba, Piura, Peru, Andrea Westcott-Lacoursiere, Gender and Youth Engagement Officer for INVEST Co-op Peru.



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