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GSSC Seminar Series
16 April 2024


Sweetening Cocoa. An Ethnography of Subnational Sustainable Development in the Peruvian Amazon 

Anke Kaulard, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú



Sustainable cocoa production is frequently regarded as a dual solution: enhancing the quality of life for Indigenous and local communities while concurrently conserving the forest. Investigating the regional cocoa governance and divergent pathways chosen by two communities in the Peruvian San Martin region, my research offers a multiscale ethnography that sheds light on the underlying dynamics of sustainable development. By defying national development paradigms of extractivism, the research highlights the emergence of sustainability policies, driven by progressive regional administrations. Central to this paradigm shift is the cultivation of green and fair cocoa initiatives, aimed at eradicating the illegal coca economy. Zooming into the local scale, my research delves into the complex interplay between structure and agency in neighboring cocoa communities along the Peruvian Huallaga river basin. I suggest that sustainable productive development depends on the communities themselves and on their interaction with the state and its infrastructure.

Anke Kaulard was trained in Regional Sciences of Latin America at the University of Cologne, holds a PhD in sociology and teaches at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru (PUCP). Her journey in capacity-building and action-research began over two decades ago, starting with her involvement in development cooperation projects in Latin America and Africa. She is a former fellow of the trAndeS program (PUCP/FU Berlin) with a focus on inequalities and sustainable development in the Andean region. Through her work, she sheds light on the interconnected issues of intersectional inequalities and glocal value chains. Her mainly ethnographic research focuses on subnational analysis of state-society relations. Notably, she collaborates with producer associations and Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon, striving to amplify their voices and advocate for their demands regarding climate, economic, and social justice. Her contributions to research projects such as Indigenous Visions for Climate Justice (IDRC/PUCP/University of Chile) and Beyond Certification. From voluntary sustainability standards to sector transformation (PUCP/University of Melbourne) highlight her commitment to making meaningful impacts in her field.