Students of the Liberia International Christian College (LICC) in Ganta, Nimba County produces chocolate from locally sourced cocoa.
Liberia produces cocoa, but significantly less than its bordering country, Cote d’Ivoire.
It all began in 2017 when some students in the Agriculture Department of the college began experimenting with processing cocoa beans.
The students were able to make rich dark chocolate with the Cocoa beans grown by local farmers.
They soon established a business and launched, Redimere Chocolates. The chocolates can be found in stores in Ganta as well as Monrovia with the hope of expanding even further. Redimere Chocolates is producing 70% dark chocolate and cocoa tea.
What’s different about this chocolate is the process. At Redimere Chocolates, they source locally produced cocoa beans and place them in an oven instead of a cocoa roaster, as they don’t have one.
Since they are lacking the professional machinery, they then further process the chocolates by hand. In fact 90% of the entire process is done manually.
The companies’ mission is to support students by paying for their tuition fees. They hope to help the government generate revenue in order to create jobs for their people, especially the young.
‘Redimere’ derives from Latin and means ‘redeem’. The company wants to redeem its cocoa sector ranking.
Unlike many of its neighboring West African nations, Liberia is not known as a traditional mainstream producer of cocoa beans. Statistics from the National Investment Commission (NIC) shows that about 30,000 smallholder farmers are engaged in cocoa production.
These farmers produce cocoa at a low scale and rely solely on the crop to generate income, and it has been exported out of the country for processing chocolates and other foodstuffs.
Despite the vital role cocoa plays, incentives and opportunities for producers are limited. The limited capacity of smallholder farmers and the lack of reliable market access hamper the development of the cocoa sector.
However, some significant strides have been made to revive the cocoa sector since the end of the Liberian civil war. Farmers are organizing cooperatives to respond to market demands.
There are development programs that are providing extension support and building farmers and cooperatives’ capacity through numerous farmers’ field schools.
However, Liberian cocoa is heavily discounted on the world market, unfortunately, due to quality concerns, and very little value-addition takes advantage of a growing global demand for single-origin, traceable cocoa products.
If you like this story, you might be interested in the article from VADEMCO, who supports Cocoa famers in Liberai.