Choco Vibe in Panama

The company, ForestFinance, I do the intern has done a successful industry transformation, extending its market to cafeteria which combine coffee with chocolate. Recently, ¨Eat local, support local business¨ this slogan is popular buzz words in the Instagram  Panamanian food sector. In my opinion, the emotion of the expanded Panama canal is not only driving patriotic mind but also rising local market trend to serve their food which indigents grown from local Panama. ForestFinance invested the chocolate maker Oro Moreno to form a relationship more than supplier and buyer or producer and clients. In this business model, the raw material of chocolate Cacao is provided from the plantations of the ForestFinance from the plantation of Boca del toro, Panama. And then they decide to do joint venture to open a Panamanian cultural style cafeteria in Casco Antiguo (old area), a zone where contains abundant historical sense of  Panama.  Therefore, from ForestFinance to Oro Moreno to the final costumer; just like their slogans explained how the expansion  the business market to next level.  Extended the market  area from ” From tree to bar” to “From tree to shop”. ForestFinance established a completed supply chain which involved their business role as supplier and investor in order to achieve the maxima potential profit on each lucre of investment. Oro Moreno as a boutique chocolatier also cooperates with many local Panama upscale restaurants, worldwide well-known hotel chains, supermarkets even with international  airport Tocumen. I think this is a really successful strategy to establish its reputation and target certain customer groups not only people local but also those travelers who have ability to purchase the chocolate at a not cheap price. Oro Moreno also will release the customize chocolate designed for special date cause  holiday is extremely important to Panamanians. This kind of business model is small but I believe the profit is considerable. Cowgirl chocolates, a artisan chocolate company said “they strive to attain an average gross profit margin of 65 percent in its retail business, after ingredients and packaging”. And according to their official statement, they maintain successfully all their products gross profit margin between 58 % to 72 % (Timothea). Hence, I think this should be a good start for ForesFinance to step into another industry which also combine  their professional forestal management knowledge.  I´m looking forward to the opening ceremony in Casco Antiquo in this end of month!!



Explore the society and nature of Panama

On July.6, I went to the conference which held by the Ciudad del saber and a private Bridge Innovation Capital. The topic of the conference is those opportunities to do business with China. The immigration and the population from china keep growing in Panama recently. The Chinese power has transcended into key influence player in aspects of society, economy and political power in over past 150 years. With my observation and the communication with people in Panama, the Chinese community is common to see in even rural area. They often are owners of mini supermarkets or restaurants; the local people give those shops a nickname as “chinitos”. There are existing two Chinese powers within those Chinese communities in panama which are power from Taiwan or China. Those two powers are vying the using right of the Panama Canal and country diplomatic recognition from Panama government. It is interesting for me as Taiwanese to participate this conference to know how those Panamanians to deal the economic power from both Chinese powers in panama if they would like to open the company in Taiwan or China, also the stereotype of Chinese people. However, those two Chinese powers compete with each other but also cooperate with each other, at least in Panama. They will support the organizations together such as “APROCHIPA”, which is association of business for Chinese-Panamanians in Panama in order to foster the economic power and influence to the global market.


[This photo I took with Sandra chung, the presidentof the APROCHIPA 2016.]

The other highlight of this blog is the promenade trip in the Valley Anton which located in the Coclé province of Panama. Drove about two hours from Panama City.

Because of its elevation so the weather over there is much cooler than lowland Panama city. This is a small volcanic town with lots of natural attractions, including the view of waterfall around the small town and hiking up to the mountain surrounded by the forest in comfortable temperature. In here, you also have a chance to see the Rana dorada Panameña (Panamanian golden frog or Atelopus zeteki) which is critically endanger toed and also is the national symbol of Panama. It is said that if you are lucky enough if you see it when the toad dies, because they will turn to complete gold when they died and it is believed to bring the good luck. So you also can see their image in state lottery ticket! Furthermore, there has a place to give you a small tour about the butterfly. I am most surprised that the pineapple and banana are part of the food for those butterflies!


[upper is golden frog, lower is butterflies with banana and pineapple.]

Life class in Panama

I visited village San Jose which is where my project conducted once a week in past few weeks in Panama. What I’m doing is community observation within this small remote village, using my eyes to explore this small village, as well as, using the camera to recode the village life. The hardest part of the observation record is that I would never know what the people said in the next minute, therefore it is a huge challenge for me in understanding the Spanish or taking note on the paper. I am so thankful for their patient and the help from my supervisor. Those people who live in the village might not have a wealth material life. There is no air conditioner, no TV and even no flash toilet but I always can see their big smile on their faces and their kindness heart and hostility. The residents even greeted with you no matter where you are or who you are. During these weeks of my staying in Panama, the life experiences itself to me are just like a series of class of life and spirit. Last weekend, I went to San Blas islands constitute more than 360 small sand island located in Caribbean ocean. The indigenous called Kuna Yala live in such rustic and condition on the islands as their ancestors. During the island life for three days, I enjoyed the reefs and snorkeling, furthermore, understand a bit about the culture of the Kuna people. They believe they come from two angels and have a matriarchal society also they speak in an unwritten language called Kuna language throughout the community, instead of Spanish. The Kuna manage their tribe identity and contentedly lead a life balanced with ocean and natural. Sometimes, people just forget how to live with simple and treat people with their hearts purely. As the results, human don’t cherish what they owned and keep over-wasting the natural resources. It turns out take everything as granted. The most valuable thing I had learnt from the village or in island is that wealth doesn’t mean you have better quality of life. Your attitude determined your desire and your life altitude.


Had a great interview with local resident family in San Jose this week.


Amazing beach view in San Blas island, Diablo.

FSC auditing and River adventure

The duration from the Jun.6 to Jun.10 was FSC annual renew certificated process for Forestfinance. My supervisor, Sabine was in charge of the renewal certificated process with the company forest engineer, Pedro and the head forest operations,Yaels. SO, what is FSC(Forest Stewardship Council)? FSC is non-government and non-profit organization dedicated to ensure sustainable production process for all forest-related products with two important elements which are forest management and chain of custody(CoC). All the suppliers and producers who are involved in the supply chain must be certificated by FSC first from forest plantation to final products that deliver to the hand of customers. However, instead of FSC performs the audition, FSC authorize the third international certificated institution party. There are three types of certification marks as below:


ForestFinance is audited by SGS global service. The audition process continued one week. The auditor came to the office to review those documents with Yaels, Sabine and Pedro first, and then audit the plantations. During being in the fieldwork, auditor asked some questions to the employees who work in the plantation randomly in order to ensure the company obeyed the regulars/norms of forest management during the past year. After went through those auditing process, the auditor will provided the suggestions for improvements which should be completed this year by next month. There are three types of findings in the final report which are:

  1. Major non-conformities: Those non-conformities must be corrected and resolved within three months.
  2. Minor non-conformities
  3. Obsevations

The findings of categories 2 and 3 should be resolved until the next audit.

This weekend my collages and I had a forest adventure in Rio Mamoni for our rafting trip that is close (1.5 hour ride) to the Panama city where is one of the plantation locations of ForesFinance. We were a group of 10 people with two experienced guides. I saw the potential of developments of eco-tourism over there cause the river is a class II-IV river and located in the Mamoni preserved area. The trip lead visitors an amazing landscape and some nice and exciting rapids. Therefore, the green original forest grown along with the whole river trip. However, the travel agency should invest the security measures during the trip. Because this is raining season in Panama, some parts of the river were too turbulent to rafting on the small boats. Thus, we had to climb up to the rock and cliff to pass through without any security tools.


Little bit in Panama

My internship is in City of knowledge where is a really tranquil place   located in Panama city. I’m working for Forest Finance Team (FTT) with its quality control manager, Sabine Wischnat. FFT is a German company and its headquarter is in Bonn, Germany with several branches in Latin America, Europe and Vietnam. So, the employees in panama branch are very diverse and are come from German, Spain and Panama. The first week of my intern life was quite interesting and calm. The first barrier I got to conquer was switching language use between English and Spanish, also, experienced the language cultural shock between traditional Spanish and Latino Spanish. Therefore, sometimes, I couldn’t really understand what the people were talking about. Because they have their own local slang use and accent. However, in this special circumstances, my colleagues and I developed a new language system called “Spanglish” which means that we will communicated in half of English and in half Spanish for easily understanding between us. Besides, I observed one thing that really dragged my attention was that local people prefer to say “ciao” when they say goodbye to each other.

This week, FFT will go through FSC annual renew certificated process. It would be a fantastic experience to participant the audit process and know more about FSC certificated. So the coming up blog next week will introduce what is FSC to everyone, stay tune~~

I would like to put a conclusion for my first week life in Panama (it seems it was irrelevant to this internship but it is “must know”in Panama!) was that once you come to Panama, you must taste all the products made of banana. Banana here for Panamanians is dessert, is garnish, is main dish and is fruit of course. The banana cuisines here will re-shape the images of your banana stereotypes. I have tried one of them called “plataitos” and it was perfect with my smoke salmon sandwich as my weekend lunch.