With chocolate prices surging, a former Credit Suisse Group AG banker wants to help revive cocoa farming in the Amazon basin, where the beans are thought to have evolved about 15,000 years ago.

His campaign, located in Peru, is part of a Latin American push to gain more control of an industry now dominated by West African farmers who provide 70 percent of the market. The effort comes as drought, disease and government price controls have cut into the ability of Africa's suppliers to meet demand, boosting prices by 7.4 percent in 2014.

Enter Latin America, where academics believe cocoa originated. At one time, the confection was known by the Aztecs as the drink of the gods, and eventually it was introduced into Europe by Spanish conquistadors. Now, the former banker, Dennis Melka, is joining a push by Brazil, Ecuador and Colombia to return a legacy product to its roots.