We have landed. A wave of heat and humidity hits us as we exit the plane. It's my first time in the Solomon Islands, a beautiful nation of hundreds of pristine islands in the South Pacific.
I'm here with Brian, the founder of Makira Gold, a privately funded Cacao Social Enterprise dedicated to enabling cacao farming communities in the Solomon Islands. Brian, half Australian and half Solomon Islander, is on a mission, and I'm here to help. His vision is to provide economic opportunities for the impoverished rural community in this home village on Makira Island, and to strengthen the Solomon Islands specialty cacao industry.
So project Organic Certified Cocoa begins!
There is an increased demand and a growing popularity of dark and organic chocolates. In the last three years, organic chocolate has accounted for the largest share of the market. This may be due to science community spreading the word about the associated positive health benefits of dark chocolate, such as improved blood flow, lowering of blood pressure, and improved brain function. With the world now understanding that chocolate, good chocolate, can be good for you, the organic market is estimated to be a major revenue contributor to the chocolate market here in Australia and globally.
Cocoa production in the Pacific is a thriving industry, known for its fine flavored, high quality beans. Most of the cocoa beans grown across the Solomon Islands are traditionally farmed, meaning they are already farming organically. They don’t use synthetic chemicals, and in the words of Bob, a local of Makira island, “chemicals here are practically illegal”. Instead, the farmers work in harmony with the local ecosystem, looking after its pristine environment and ensuring long term sustainability. To help the Solomon Island cacao industry, we are on a mission to gain official certification through NAASA, Australia’s organic industry association. This will benefit the Solomon island cacao market, increasing sales and ensuring a fair price for the farmer’s premium cocoa beans.
However, the process of certification Is long and expensive. It's not enough to simply claim "organic”, it requires a whole team, with numerous forms, annual inspections, management plans, contracts etc. Not easy but definitely worth it.
I'm here to share Brian's mission, our story, and hope to give you some insight of the farms, the farmers, the island, and the cocoa industry.
So travel with me here to the Solomon Islands, for project Organic Certified Cocoa. Enjoy the story.