Road to Sweetness
The valley where La Mesenia village is located has been for many years used for agriculture and cattle grazing. The main crops have been highland corn, beans and highland sugar cane. The later one is used for producing "panela" which is unrefined whole cane sugar, typical of Latin America, which is a solid form of sucrose derived from the boiling and evaporation of sugar cane juice. Panela is known by other names in Latin America, such as "piloncillo" in Mexico
In 1996, the Mayor of the town of Jardin, the municipality where La Mesenia village is located, provided funding for building a sugar mill to produce "panela" in the region. This sugar mill would be used by families from La Mesenia and La Cristalina. At that time, 40 families formed a cooperative to grow sugar cane and process it to produce blocks of panela. As years went but fewer people grew sugar cane as the cost of hauling the harvest, processing and taking the final product to market was too expensive since everything had to be transported by mules.
The last time the sugar mill operated was two tears ago and only one family grew sugarcane. Upon talking to this last grower, he told BIOCONSERVANCY that he had to put money out of his own pocket to break even and had given up all together to plant again.
BIOCONSERVANCY realized that this infrastructure could be recovered and improved to bring back the production of panela to the region. This crop can provide an alternative to cattle grazing, which is the other viable option and has a negative impact on the landscape of the area deteriorating the mountainous terrain.
In order to bring back sugar cane crops and restart the sugar mill, several tasks need to be accomplished. First, the sugar mill needs to be accesible by vehicles. BIOCONSERVANCY has built a one-mile plus access road to the mill. Second, improving the milling process will be necessary. Some new stainless steel decanters will be necessary. Also a new burner, which uses harvest material, needs to be installed. Finally. the milling motor needs to be overhauled. All this will allow to produce a good quality product.
BIOCONSERVANCY plans to help the villagers certify the product by Rainforest Alliance and, if possible, have an organic certification. The plan is to export the "panela" in ground form to the United States market as a natural sweetener to replace processed refined white sugar.
BIOCONSERVANCY is confident this project will have a positive impact in the community and allow the villagers to have a fair income and produce at profitable costs.
Impact on Conservation
BIOCONSERVANCY is committed to assisting the community in establishing productive systems that are compatible, or that cause a minimal impact, on the surrounding environment, and that can provide basic food needs and economic stability to stakeholders leading to a sustainable management of natural resources and conservation of biodiversity. We are looking for donors to support this life changing project.