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Article: Origin Trip #51: Mababu, Tanzania

The sunrise shining through a grove of vibrant green trees in Tanzania
Origin Updates

Origin Trip #51: Mababu, Tanzania

Teamwork Amidst Trials: A Voyage of Empowerment, Strategic Partnerships and Resilience in Direct Trade 

After a long 70+ hour journey Shawn arrived in Mababu, Tanzania and reunited with our farmer partners to discuss global supply challenges, the 300% market price increase in cocoa bean costs worldwide and negotiations for next year's contracts. But not without a mid-morning snack first!

After enjoying chai-tea and chapati flatbread, Shawn and the Mababu CCF got down to business. At the top of the agenda, the group discussed bean delivery delays due to the situation in the Middle East and recent challenges due to governmental regulations in Ghana and the Ivory Coast. 

These meetings are not easy by any means (even with translation help from Saraphiner, our amazing Tanzania Project Coordinator) but after working with this dedicated group of smallholder farmers for nearly 14 years, their words sum it up perfectly. “This is not just a business transaction. Shawn is family.”

Despite a tradition of not negotiating, this year presented a unique situation where Shawn and the farmers agreed on a price above the local market rate, though it meant purchasing fewer beans.

The afternoon was dedicated to the farmers’ "10 Year Vision of Greatness," facilitated by Saraphiner, our Tanzania Field Representative and an Empowered Girls program graduate. Shawn shared, "one of the coolest things I've seen was that Saraphiner taught the farmers hand signals to correspond with each of the vision points. In other words, the body was learning the connection to the vision." 

The following day, Shawn began by heading to a local print shop with Saraphiner to print contracts before visiting shambas (farms). 

Along the way, he shared some favorite music on the drive to the village (Daughter by Loudon Wainwright III and a few old gospel songs!).

The morning was spent learning about farmers’ present difficulties with current crop yield. Their concerns about pest and disease issues have been exacerbated by climate change. Shawn is hopeful that our lead farmer in the Philippines, Peter Cruz, an expert on organic farming, can provide some advice & training on rehabilitating older trees, grafting and cocoa tree breeding. This is one of the many beautiful benefits of direct relationships with farmers, they can support each other from across the globe!

Later that day, Shawn and the Mababu CCF farmers met again with government officials to continue bean contract negotiations for next year. After talking with the leadership team back home in Springfield, plans for our upcoming shipment of beans were finalized. Next up, Shawn will continue quality-testing beans, visioning (plus tasting chocolate with farmers, of course!) and sharing profits. 

After an emotional moment sharing a custom photo book with Mr. Livingston including images from trips over the past 10+ years, the farmers quickly returned with fully signed contracts, inciting a spontaneous celebration.

During the contract signing, Shawn inspected bean inventory and conducted a quality cut test to ensure quality standards were met for our next shipment. 

A productive meeting included distributing partnership t-shirts and discussing the future of the local school, which has made significant strides with broad support.

Shawn’s last few days in Tanzania were spent celebrating! This trip commemorated the 10th anniversary of our Empowered Girls and Enlightened Boys programs at Matema Secondary School, where nearly 10,000 students have participated over the past decade.

While there, Shawn was included in a special ceremony where student leaders showcased their creativity and work planning personal visions for the future. 

During the anniversary celebration, Shawn reunited with a former student, Maria, one of the very first participants of the visioning practice in Tanzania (way back in 2015!), who is now studying to become a veterinarian. In honor of Maria and her friend, Upendo, also currently attending school to become a civil engineer, the endowment for area students seeking post secondary education will be renamed the Maria-Upendo Maono Scholarship. 

The day concluded with our annual beach party and profit-sharing with farmers, where we shared news (and samples, of course!) of our recent International Chocolate Award-win for the Fruit Punch Dark Chocolate Bar made with Tanzania cocoa beans, opened our financial books, translated into Swahili and distributed significant profits from the past year, as is our tradition! 


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