Nestled in the foothills of the Rwenzori Mountains is a stretch of lush volcanic soil shared by more than 900 small farmers. On their 1-3 hectare fields, they mainly grow cocoa as a source of income.
As is so often the case in Africa, this cacao is a wild mix of different original varieties. Like its neighbour in the Congo, cocoa from the Rwenzori region in Uganda has strong traces of the “Amelonado” strain. These are joined by genetic remnants from the upper Amazon and Trinitario.
Latitude Trade Company, our local partner, works closely with Ugandan cacao farmers to train them in the principles of organic agroforestry and help them to increase their yields, thus raising the economic level of the entire region.
Cacao is harvested only 5-6 months of the year here. This means that in the remaining months, the income derived from cacao farming is needed to cover school fees, food, unforeseen health expenses, and other household expenses. To address this challenge, Latitude offers off-season microloans that can be repaid during the cacao season.
The project helps smallholder farmers establish community-based nurseries and agroforestry systems with the best local cacao varieties grown alongside vanilla, macadamia nut and native woody species. The agroforestry fields act as buffer zones for the forest, a habitat for elephants, chimpanzees and colobus monkeys.
Origin and farmers: Smallholders on the border of the Rwenzori Forest, of which more than 50% are women.
Harvest Time: The main harvest runs from September to January and the smaller harvest is from March to April.
Fermentation & Drying: 5,5 - 6,5 days centrally fermented, slow sun drying, hand sorted and sieved.
Cocoa farmer Safuroza Butamanya talks about herself & cacao farming:
Thanks to Original Beans
All photos (unless otherwise noted), as well as baseline data and direct interview quotes, were kindly provided by Jan Schubert of Original Beans. Original Beans is both a chocolate brand and now a major cocoa bean importer, and Jan travels on their behalf to build projects and develop long-term partnerships with smallholder farmers and local partners on the ground. We buy our cacao beans directly from Original Beans, who set the highest sustainability standards for their cacao that go far beyond organic certification.
You can order the cacao here.