Since Shawn Askinosie’s inaugural visit in 2010, we’ve worked directly with farmers in Mbeya who grow and harvest Trinitario cocoa beans, which are typically used in fine, dark chocolate. We worked with a woman-led farmer group in Tenende, Tanzania from 2010–early 2014 and are now working with another farmer group in Mababu, Tanzania about 10 miles away, led by Mama Mpoki. After a growing season’s worth of care and diligence, this region produces beans with a flavor spectrum unique to the Kyela district. When roasted, the beans evoke subtle, fruity notes of strawberry and blueberry and when tempered, it creates the creamiest mouthfeel of all of our chocolates. These rare and unique beans are used to craft our 72% Mababu, Tanzania Dark Chocolate Bar, among other products. This smooth, fruity chocolate bar has won five international awards, including a 2020 Silver Academy of Chocolate medal and been featured in publications like O, The Oprah Magazine.
As a benefit of Askinosie Chocolate’s direct trade relationship with the region, our adventures to Tanzania have also given local high school students the opportunity to meet and work with cocoa farmers and other high school students in the Kyela district through our experiential business immersion program for students, Chocolate University (CU). After months of classes and preparation, local Southwest Missouri high school students journey to rural Tanzania to learn about small business, entrepreneurship and cocoa, and witness Direct Trade firsthand. Students also engage in community development projects we’ve begun, many of which involve the local schools like Mwaya Secondary School & Mababu Primary.
One of the projects was the implementation of a Khan Academy video-learning program on laptops and projectors throughout the school, managed by a computer teacher, funded by a generous donation to CU. In past years, we’ve funded the first textbooks at the school and a deep water well for the village, which now provides potable water to the village’s 2,000 residents. Perhaps our biggest project is our Sustainable Lunch Program, on which we collaborated with the administrators and PTA at Mwaya. In this program, which we call A Product of Change, Askinosie Chocolate purchased Premium Kyela Rice, a delicious sweet rice harvested by the PTA at Mwaya, sold the Rice online, in our storefront and to select specialty food retailers across the country, then returned 100% of the profits to the PTA for them to source local food to provide lunches for each of the 1,100 students. We closely monitored the success of the program by analyzing key benchmarks. Since the program’s inception in 2012, more than 220,000 school lunches have been provided and malnourishment has significantly decreased. Additionally, attendance is consistently up and graduation rates have improved. Learn more about our second Sustainable Lunch Program in the Philippines and A Product of Change.