Plus Cacao

Cacao from Congo - A Tale of Transformation

In the heart of Eastern Congo, amidst lush landscapes and vibrant communities, lies the story of an extraordinary variety of Cacao.

This Cacao has influenced the lives of those working in its cultivation, demonstrating the power of collaboration and community strength in challenging times.

The agricultural cooperative and farmer support organization, Esco Kivu, marks the beginning of a shift in agricultural thinking. Established in the wake of social unrest in the 1990s, Esco Kivu embarked on a mission to revitalize the agricultural sector, particularly focusing on Cacao cultivation as an alternative to robusta coffee, which had been devastated by disease.

Beni, a bustling city in Eastern Congo, serves as the epicenter of Esco Kivu’s operations. Here, amidst the challenges of rugged terrain and difficult conditions, the organization established its largest Cacao processing unit.

They describe themselves as follows:

“We remain a strong family business! Since 2000, we have specialized in promoting the cultivation of Cacao, quinine, papaya, and vanilla, exporting these products to the global market. The first Cacao export from North Kivu was in 2005, and since then, growth has continued rapidly. In collaboration with international organizations, we provide continuous support and training for farmers, their communities, and our customers.”

One remarkable achievement in Beni is the establishment of the Academie Bilangue du Congo (ABC!), a primary school providing much-needed education to children from local communities, thereby contributing to the development of these communities. After all, children are our future, aren’t they?

Venturing further into the Rwenzori Mountains, we arrive at Watalinga, a remote area known for producing some of the finest cacao in East Africa. Esco Kivu’s presence here dates back to the early 2000s when the organization expanded its operations following successes in Beni. Today, over 6,000 farmers in Watalinga cultivate and ferment exceptionally high-quality Cacao, contributing to the economic prosperity of the region.

Initiatives in Watalinga are not solely focused on Cacao. The primary driver of change in this region is the desire to improve the quality of life for those involved in Cacao cultivation. Therefore, the farmers’ cooperative is involved in the construction and renovation of primary and secondary schools and the establishment of the Kamango University through the Fair for Life initiative. By enabling farmers and supporting educational opportunities, lives and livelihoods are transformed in Watalinga.

Empowering Communities Through Cacao

Central to the transformation in Congo are training programs for farmers. Carefully designed to equip them with the knowledge and skills necessary for sustainable cacao production.

Specially trained agronomists provide guidance and supervision, leading farmers through certification programs, ensuring compliance with quality standards, and promoting environmental stewardship and social responsibility. As a result, Cacao from this region has the opportunity to reach the hands of cocoa enthusiasts in Europe!

Cacao Farmers’ Opportunities for Development

Farmers engaged in Cacao cultivation have numerous opportunities for development, both for themselves and their families.

With the action of many organizations, the Bilingual University of Watalinga and the Farmer Training School have been established, where farmers can improve their agricultural skills, enhance the quality of their crops, and increase their incomes.

The Bilingual University of Watalinga offers high-quality education, enabling farmers to develop their children’s careers.

Additionally, the Farmer Training School provides practical training covering all aspects of cacao cultivation, allowing farmers to manage their farms more effectively and protect the natural environment.

About the People and Their Cacao

Here are the people whose lives have been transformed by Cacao cultivation.

Muhindo Vihonoku and Kavugho Katswiri, once coffee planters, found themselves in crisis when their crops were decimated by disease. They found new hope and prosperity through Cacao. With income from their Cacao harvests, they supported their children’s education, paving the way for a brighter future.

Dorothy Mbambu Mukine, a widow and mother, turned to Cacao cultivation to earn a basic living. Through hard work and determination, she not only provided for her family but also secured a future for her children, giving them the opportunity for education and development.

Deo Bhaligelua and Gedeon Nsiyabho have transformed their family’s legacy through Cacao cultivation. Despite obstacles such as disabilities, they have achieved great success in the fields, nurturing their crops and families with unwavering dedication.

In the green landscapes of Eastern Congo, where Cacao trees sway in the gentle breeze, a story of transformation unfolds – a story of partnership, resilience, and the power of Cacao to change lives.

We rejoice in witnessing how farmers and communities, in which they live, rise, strengthened and united, towards a future full of possibilities.

All the information and photos thanks to Esco Kivu Sarl