Many years ago Brazil was well known for its cocoa plantations. The southern state of Bahia had such a huge production of cocoa that it was known as the Cocoa Cultivation Region. The owners of the plantations called Cocoa Colonels and they were said to be wealthy, powerful, and mean.
Sudden harsh conditions destroyed 600 hectares of cocoa cultivation and brought on an economic, social, and ecological disaster such as had never been seen before. As a result the farmers were forced into poverty and over 200,000 workers were laid off.
Since 1989, the repercussions of this catastrophe are still being felt as 93 towns in an important bio-geographical area struggle to survive. This adds up to over 3 million people.
Many official accounts and different reports try to make sense of what happened. This film is a collection of those testimonies.
One man says that as he walked through the farm he noticed something tied to the bottom of a cocoa tree. He describes it as a knot and a broom tied with its own skin. He goes on to say that it wasn’t accidental, but something that had been done deliberately. This phenomenon, caused by a fungus known as ‘The Witch’s Broom’ seemed to have been deliberately brought into the state of Bahia.
Another woman remembers that it was around 1994 when things started getting hard at home financially. Her husband, who worked at one of the farms, was no longer making enough money to feed his large family. The witch’s broom was getting worse and there was talk about the entire region disappearing. Her husband sank into depression and tried to commit suicide on numerous occasions. Many others drank rat poison to end their lives, and others died of heart attacks because they could not handle the financial recession. There was no money circulating in the area and even banks had stopped issuing loans. So local businesses fell into bankruptcy.
There was a massive exodus out of the region as people left to other cities searching for new resources. The cocoa plantations had provided homes for the workers, so as the plague spread, people were forced to build improvised houses made of whatever material they could find. Many ghettos sprung up all around the place because of this. And the cities became overpopulated.
Farmers started cutting down trees and selling lumber in order to provide food for their families and as a result the area became a desert within a few years.
On November 18th, 2011, President Dilma Rousseff sanctioned a law that created the Truth Commission. The people of Brazil are convinced that the truth about what really happened and who’s to blame will come out.