From tree to bar to table

Kokomana is a small artisan ‘tree-to-bar’ chocolate maker and social enterprise run by Richard and Anne Markham in Savusavu, northern Fiji.

The operation produces about 100 bars of high-quality chocolate bars—almost entirely by hand—each week, using cocoa beans from communities, particularly around Natewa Bay (including from Ana and Manoa Raika of Naweni, who have been awarded at Paris’ Salon Du Chocolat). Kokomana also runs tours of its operations and grows its own beans.

The Markhams and their team are taking an agroforestry approach to their crop.

“We’re very concerned about the impact of agricultural production especially cash crops on the environment,” Richard says. “It’s a fragile environment here, and every time there’s a boom in production of, whether it’s dalo or ginger or vanilla or kava, communities tend to go out and find nice old growth forests with fertile soil and cut it down, and you get one cycle of production and then the topsoil is washed away, it pollutes the reef and so on.”

“You can’t grow rice or sugar in an agroforestry system but many of these high value crops, cocoa, coffee, vanilla, even kava itself, grow really (well) in this kind of agroforestry system. It reduces dependence on one commodity, if everybody grows kava, then the price collapses, if everybody grows vanilla, the price at the moment is pretty buoyant but it will collapse as well, you know, we say that the price of vanilla at the moment is between F$4,000 a kilo but it will collapse. Once Madagascar comes back into production, it will collapse back down to $50 a kilo. So, what this does from a business point of view, you grow different things, you have a bit of a safety net.”

“When we’re managing the farm, there’s an awful lot of emphasis on conservation of soil fertility, recycling nutrients into the soil,” Richard says.

Kokomana also offers farm tours tailored to the interests of visitors; so while they will include demonstrations of chocolate processing, they can also include trees, birds, butterflies and insects.

For the full story login to your account or subscribe today.