Why We Do What We Do
With the goals of helping reduce poverty and building social and economic stability by promoting sustainable cocoa production and improving farmer livelihoods we have set up the following:
Farmer training programs. Esco Kivu provide specially trained and qualified agronomists to supervise and train cocoa growers through Organic, UTZ and FFL certification programs.
Training in entrepreneurship and encouragement to diversify income-generating activities.
Helping to organise farmers into cooperatives and associations.
The creation of autonomous community projects in the area.
A savings and loans facility for Esco Kivu farmers.
Here are some success stories...
MUHINDO VIHONOKU & KAVUGHO KATSWIRI
Originally coffee farmers, Muhindo and Kavugho went through a long lean period after their coffee trees were decimated by the infamous coffee wilt disease which ravaged the area in the 1990s until they started growing cocoa in 2008.
When their harvests began in 2011 they said that cocoa was ''a blessing from God for our family.'' Through cocoa they supported all eight children through school, and their oldest son has been a doctor at Kamango hospital since 2016. Here they are sat outside their new house!
Muhindo said ''Thanks to the savings program that Esco Kivu has set up, paying my bills is more than easy because after the sale of my cocoa I save some money.''
Bilingual University Of Watalinga
Located in Nobili, the Bilingual University of Watalinga was built in 2019 by the association of Fair for Life (FFL) cocoa farmers in conjunction with Esco Kivu, Theo Chocolate and the local community. Having played a key role in inception and building of the university we are committed to supporting the management, staff, students and graduates on their exciting new chapter.
As the only university in the area its objectives are to promote and encourage local knowledge, to offer a qualified workforce to employers in the local area and to train high level graduates.
DOROTHY MBAMBU MUKINE
Dorothy is a widow and mother of 5 children. While her husband was alive, the family were subsistence farmers and only two of her five children went to school; but, inspired by their neighbours, they bought land and planted 1Ha of cocoa in 2006.
"The only support for my family was cocoa" she says. With income from the plantation, the three children at home could start school, and now three have graduated. One is a teacher at the Mabakanga Institute in Beni, another has a large cocoa farm in Nobili.
In 2017 Dorothy’s daughter was seriously ill and had to have five operations costing the family about $2,000, but "Thanks to the savings scheme at Esco Kivu, I have an emergency fund and I can cope at times like this." The story has a happy ending and Kavugho is now fully recovered!
"With good training, cocoa farming is much more profitable than running an informal business in Nobili. My dreams are a reality thanks to cocoa”.
Dorothy is reassured by the continued presence of Esco Kivu despite current political insecurity and thinks that Esco gives the local population confidence to stay in the area and keep farming.
FARMER TRAINING SCHOOL
Esco Kivu conduct training alongside our certification program and have trained thousands of farmers to date on topics from good agricultural practice and environmental responsibility to social issues and financial management. Training plays a significant role in our goal of uplifting and empowering farmers and communities.
Our farming modules include:
Preparing land and the environment.
Establishing a nursery.
Planting crops and shade management.
Post-harvest handling techniques.
Pests and diseases.
Pruning, weeding and regenerative techniques.
Soil and fertility management.
Deo, 31 and father of three still lives in the village where he was born.
He did not complete his schooling, but instead took his future into his own hands, when in 2006, at the age of 18, planted up 2.5 Ha of cocoa on family land.
It must have felt like a huge risk, but the gamble paid off and soon Deo was helping lift his family out of poverty. He was able to feed his children, send them to school and support some of his wider family.
At each harvest Deo pays into the Esco Kivu savings scheme as he has several new potential projects in the pipeline including buying some of his own land and continuing to improve his home.
Deo is a good role model for the youth in his village saying, “it is in effort that we find satisfaction”.
ENGAGING WITH COMMUNITY TO REDUCE DEFORESTATION
Much of our cocoa comes from communities living near the Virunga National Park boundary, Africa's oldest and most biologically diverse protected area. Through our farmer training and cocoa regeneration programs, and in conjunction with some of our partners we are engaging with and helping to educating those who have the most significant immediate impact on the parks well-being.
Gédéon, father of six, lives with his family on the farm he inherited from his father. He too was affected by coffee wilt disease so, inspired by cocoa-growing friends in the area, he started growing cocoa and had his first harvest in 2012.
In 2013, Gédéon sadly suffered from kidney failure, but income from his cocoa allowed him travel to Kampala for treatment and to pay his healthcare bills.
Gédéon has been disabled since 2018 when he was shot by bandits, but despite his disability his farm allows him to fulfil his responsibilities as a father. "Feeding the family and paying school fees is no longer a worry for me. Success consists of knowing how to surround yourself with the best". Thanks to the various training sessions organised by agronomists from Esco Kivu, and supervision in the field, Gédéon now considers himself a cocoa expert!