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organisational structures to overcome cashflow
issues based on their own experiences with
other growers around the globe.
Furthermore, the companies are supporting
a small chocolate factory at the Association
for Alternative Communities Trade in Vanuatu
(ACTIV) in Port Vila. ACTIV is a Vanuatu-based
non-government organisation. The director
of ACTIV, Sandrine Wallez, is a key PARDI
project cocoa-chain partner. Her role includes
connecting the research scientists, government
agencies, growers and chocolate companies.
Bahen & Co and Haigh’s Chocolates
recognise the importance to growers of
receiving quick feedback on bean quality and
benefiting from price premiums when they
reach higher quality standards. To address these
two key issues, Josh Bahen trained Ms Wallez in
the art of fine-chocolate making. Likewise, Ben
Kolly and Peter Milliard from Haigh’s Chocolates
provide Ms Wallez with chocolate-making
advice and guidance on storing and packaging.
A local bakery and an ice-cream maker are
keen to add Vanuatu chocolate as an ingredient
in their products. In addition, the cruise ships
visiting Port Vila recently began organising
tours to visit ACTIV. Soon, the tourists will be
Vanuatu’s first chocolate competition
In October 2014, Vanuatu held its first chocolate competition as part of Salon Culinaire 2014.
The chocolate competition followed four years of R&D supported by two ACIAR projects.
Researchers have helped local cocoa farmers to intensify production and to improve the quality
of their beans through better fermentation and drying, thereby opening access to new,
Farmers representing 10 communities on the islands of Malakula and Epi, as well as a researcher
from Espiritu Santo, brought their very best cocoa beans to Vanuatu’s capital, Port Vila. There,
project partner Sandrine Wallez, of the local NGO Alternative Communities Trade in Vanuatu,
transformed the beans into chocolate.
Seven judges including Ben Kolly (from Haigh’s Chocolates, South Australia) and father and son,
Mark and Josh Bahen (from Bahen & Co, Western Australia) put the anonymously presented samples
to the test. The judges marked each chocolate for its flavour and other qualities, using criteria as
sophisticated as those for judging fine wines. Mr Kolly commented on the unique flavours of the
local beans, saying “the fruitiness and the complexity are exciting”.
When the placings were announced, Denis from Rory Village was awarded first place, followed by
Fredy from Bisa Village and Joseph from Epi in third place. Filmmaker Conor Ashleigh followed the
competition and the farmers’ personal stories. This video is available on the ACIAR YouTube Channel
The enthusiasm kindled by the competition was palpable and there are plans to make this an
annual event—or even to compete in the global Salon du Chocolat in Paris, France. Certainly the
newly forged links with international markets and fine-chocolate makers will help to drive future
research in Vanuatu and help local cocoa farmers to gain the maximum possible benefit from this
able to buy Vanuatu chocolate and learn about
the growers, communities and the islands
where the cocoa beans are grown.
ACHIEVING BROADER IMPACTS
Today, PARDI’s Vanuatu cocoa value-chain
project includes an increasingly diverse
research community. Improving the lives of
the cocoa growers and their families remains
the focus of the project’s efforts. Eight producer
groups from four islands represent more than
two-dozen communities, expanding its reach
to 1,000 cocoa-producing households, or
At the retail end of the cocoa value chain,
the artisan and luxury chocolate-makers
consortium is expanding in positive ways.
Rodney Nikkels, the owner of Dutch company
Chocolate Makers, plans to visit Vanuatu in
2015. Like Bahen & Co, Chocolate Makers acts as
a ‘lead representative agent’ for dozens of other
artisan chocolate companies in Europe and
North America actively searching for suppliers
of South-Pacific cocoa beans.
This larger private-sector consortium of
artisan chocolate companies seeks research
support to understand how they, as a group,
can cooperate, innovate, organise and operate
at a more effective scale or develop appropriate
structures to support South-Pacific producers,
households and communities—from Fiji, Papua
New Guinea, Samoa and Solomon Islands, as
well as Vanuatu.
By continuing their collaborative research
with chocolate makers across Europe and North
America through the auspices of Bahen & Co
and Haigh’s Chocolates, the Pacific island cocoa
growers look set to expand their exports to
the luxury chocolate market, and bring greater
prosperity to their communities. n
ACIAR project: AGB/2008/044:
Pacific Agribusiness Research for Development
Initiative. PARDI Research Activity 2011-01
Facilitating improved livelihoods for Pacific region
cocoa-producer networks through premium
Other Pacific cocoa projects: ASEM/2012/072,
HORT/2008/046, HORT/2012/026, HORT/2013/032
More information: Professor Randy Stringer,
University of Adelaide,
1. Litamat Benua, mother of four, is a proud farmer from Bremway village on Malakula Island, Vanuatu. Litamat talked passionately about the role of female farmers with cocoa farmers.
2. Drying beans on mat under cover. 3. Basille, manager of the Cocoa Growers Association, shows Denis Nambbith and other farmers techniques for scraping cocoa tree trunks to
promote new growth. Basille supports the cocoa growers’ co-operatives across Malakula Island, Vanuatu.
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