Endemic lemurs, majestic baobabs, pristine rainforests, vast deserts, almost 5,000 km of coastline bordering the Indian Ocean… These are just a few reasons to visit Madagascar. This fourth biggest island in the world is home to an extraordinarily rich biodiversity. There is another good reason to visit this beautiful island: exceptional cocoa! When a French colonist planted the first cocoa trees back in 1822, he could not have guessed Malagasy cocoa would become world famous. It is a unique cocoa, very rare indeed – only 0.1% of world cocoa production comes from Madagascar –, and immediately recognizable by its fruity flavours. Sambirano cocoa grows in the northwest of Madagascar. Trade winds and the proximity of a mountain range create a specific microclimate in the valley of the Sambirano River. During the rainy season the river floods and deposits fertile soil along the riverbanks. The combination of climate and soil provide ideal conditions for cocoa cultivation.
Sambirano cocoa sourced by our supplier is organic certified; no pesticides and only natural fertilizers are used in its production. Cocoa trees grow under the canopy of indigenous shade trees together with mango, banana, vanilla, pineapple, peppers and other crops. Sustainable agroforestry systems like these create a buffer zone protecting Sambirano’s natural rainforests. This is much needed; over 40% of Madagascar’s forests have disappeared over the last 60 years and the remaining forests are highly fragmented. Deforestation and soil erosion are a major threat, reducing the ability of farmers to produce enough food. With the help of the Rainforest Alliance cocoa farmers in the Sambirano Valley plant new trees to battle soil erosion, protect remaining forest fragments and restore the natural landscape of the valley.
Smallholder cocoa farmers in the Sambirano Valley could not benefit optimally from their famous cocoa until Union de Coopérative Lazan’ny Sambirano (UCLS) started a comprehensive programme regarding organic farming, selection of planting materials, and post-harvesting techniques for fermentation and drying. Bean quality increased considerably, making export of the cocoa for premium prices possible! UCLS is an umbrella organisation for 23 primary cooperatives with about 410 farmer members. Farmers are shareholders in their cooperative and UCLS, guaranteeing that they benefit directly and maximally from added value in the supply chain and pre-financing. Thanks to the joint efforts Sambirano cocoa is certified organic and fair trade SPP (small producers program). Our supplier partners with UCLS to share the tasty Sambirano cocoa with chocolate makers with a passion for flavour and wish to support Sambinaro’s smallholder farmers, whose life has changed drastically for the better.
Idukki Organic cocoa grows in southwest India in the state of Kerala, known as ‘God’s own country’. This might sound a bit presumptive, but looking at the abundant nature, rich culture, colourful festivals, diverse flora and fauna, and beautiful temples, mosques and churches, Kerala may claim this motto. And we haven’t even mentioned Kerala’s bounty of agricultural products and spices: 97% of India’s black pepper is grown in Kerala, as well as other spices, like vanilla, cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg. The Idukki hills are known for their tropical climate with an average temperature of over 24°C. Rain is abundant with over 2000 mm precipitation per year, but there is also lots of sunshine. If you don’t like to get wet, it is best to avoid Idukki in July when a whopping 454 mm rain is falling. The green hills in Idukki are known for their fertile soil, rich with organic matter. Weather conditions combined with soil and topography provide an excellent environment to grow high quality cocoa.
The Idukki hills are part of the Western Ghats mountain range, stretching some 1600 km from north of Mumbai to the southern tip of India. The mountain range is a biodiversity hotspot, and home to the largest population of endangered Asian elephants, lion-tailed macaques and sloth bears. Tropical forests with a rich diversity in flora and fauna cover more than half of the Idukki district. Cocoa trees grow under the canopy of these forests, and are intercropped with spices, like black pepper, nutmeg, cardamom, and fruit trees such as coconut, papaya, mango, jackfruit, passion fruit and banana. This elaborate agroforestry system serves as a natural buffer zone to protect the forests of the surrounding hills.
Cocoa was not an important cash crop for the farmers in Idukki until the arrival of Ellen and Luca, a Belgian-Italian couple with a passion for driving change in rural communities. They founded GoGround beans & spices with the purpose to support farmers to grow the best cocoa possible. Every week GoGround staff visits farmers in the project to buy all cocoa beans they have available, regardless of quantity or season. The farmers receive premium prices for premium quality, and are paid immediately every week – a welcome steady flow of income. Our supplier pre-finances the contracts to allow prompt payments to the farmers. Because the farmers can trust GoGround will pass by, they wait with breaking the cocoa pods until collection day. This ensures that only the freshest wet beans are used to produce Idukki Organic cocoa. The weekly encounters offer an excellent opportunity to discuss agricultural practices with the farmers, develop and reinforce organic methods, and help them to improve the production and quality of their cocoa.
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