Posted by AJ Wildey on Dec 11, 2019
AJ Wildey was a Global Grant Scholar to Peru in 2014-15. Below is a letter we received from her! 
I met a fellow Rotarian down here in Lima, Peru the other day and got to talking about my participation in the scholarship program. It was such a great experience, and it has shaped so much of what I’m doing these days. After finishing my degree in Anthropology with a certificate in Biocommerce and Sustainable Development, I started a business specialized in Peruvian cacao and chocolate. My Master’s investigation was focused on the value chain articulation of cocoa farmers in the rural jungle of Peru and I saw that, while there were many government programs incentivizing farmers to sow cocoa, these programs weren’t solidifying commercial connections for the farmers. So I decided to fill that gap! And so El Cacaotal was born. It’s essentially an edible library of Peruvian chocolate (and most recently, coffee, too!). I work directly with around 40 different cacao and chocolate producers and have about 200 chocolates in the collection so far. We highlight the origins of every chocolate bar and have pictures of the farmers and chocolate makers posted all around the shop, this way our visitors can put a face to a (chocolate bar) name. 
The shop has been a huge success; Peruvian chocolate has been booming since winning an international chocolate competition in 2015, but there was no one talking about the farmers and origins behind the chocolate. Now people from around the world (and around Peru!) visit us for a sweet chocolate education.
El Cacaotal even made a popular travel guide’s list of Top 10 things to do in Lima. (See us at #7 and click to see their brief write-up!)
In October, I took Peruvian chocolate international. My coffee partner and I did a chocolate and coffee pairing tour in 3 cities in Chile, and it was a resounding success! So successful that we will be repeating it on the East Coast this January! For now, we have venues in Boston, NYC and NJ set. But it dawned on me that perhaps the 7390 District might be interested in having us by? I would love to share how far the Global Grant has taken me!
I will always be grateful for the opportunity that Rotary International offered me, and will never forget your unwavering support of me—it was fundamental.
Take care!
AJ Wildey