Zócalo Gourmet purchases mesquite from several community-based producers in the Piura region of Peru. For centuries, the mesquite tree has been integral to the health and culture of this region. The pods are highly nutritious and have been used by locals since pre-Incan times as food for animals and humans in the form of pods, flour, syrup and as a toasted coffee-like drink. Yet these forests are in danger of disappearing due to excessive and uncontrolled consumption of mesquite wood and briquettes. In addition, the mesquite farmers lose about 60-70% of their production due to pests, lack of adequate and secure storage space, and poor transportation for bringing the product to market.
This small family company was founded in 2006 to work with a community association of over 1300 producers of mesquite products in the Piura region. The producers jointly manage a native mesquite forest of over 11k hectares, with each producer allotted a five hectars plot. Algarrobos works with the producers to train them in organic techniques, to move them through the process of getting organically certified, and to bring their products to the market at a higher price to the producers.
Peruvian Products Company
This community-based company cultivates tamarind and processes mesquite through an alliance with a 68 family cooperative that manages over5400 hectares of native mesquite forest.
The Company has worked with the community to certify 80 hectares of forest as Organic, an area that produces about 114,678 kg of mesquite pods during each harvest. In addition, the community is working on several environmental conservation and economic development projects, including one with Heifer Project International.
One of the major problems of transforming mesquite pods into organic flour is the availability of warehouses that allow for the conservation of the pods from one harvest to another in controlled conditions to retain product quality and to protect from pests. Peruvian Products, with technical support form the University of Piura and the National Institute for Natural Resources, has built 4 mesquite warehouses, each housing 25 cubic tonnes. In addition, they have planted specific species around the warehouses that naturally keep pests at bay.