The world’s first women cacao cooperative against all odds
Centuries of exploitation and decades of armed conflicts have made Eastern Congo one of the world’s poorest places and perhaps the harshest to live as a woman. Saddled with agricultural work, firewood gathering, water hauling, and childcare, women have seen an increase in their burdens as the economy has deteriorated. Girls are always the first ones to drop out of school. Violence against women has become a normal aspect of day-to-day reality even at the household level.
Amidst the turmoil, hundreds of women have taken local leadership to create an opportunity for women from the new cacao crop introduced by the Original Beans partnership since 2008. These are the Femmes de Virunga. They have planted more than a quarter of a million cacao trees and approximately 40 thousand shade trees. In November 2016, they have founded the world’s first women cacao cooperative.
Know your bean: Virunga Amelonado
The quality of our Virunga chocolates shows how important soil, climate and skillful processing are to make the best from a bean. The strong Femmes de Virunga 55% chocolate is the result of several years continued training the farming women until they have become masters at growing, fermenting and drying cacao.
One bar : One tree @Virunga
With financial support from DFID UK, Ashden Trust, and Giving Wings and Futura Foundation, Original Beans has since 2013 empowered the Femmes de Virunga through literacy courses, leadership trainings, a women-directed local radio programme and a variety of entrepreneurial activities. More than a quarter of a million cacao edlings and approximately 40 thousand shade trees have been distributed, and the work continues to:
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