25,000 families in the Mbeya region of Tanzania rely on the farming of cocoa beans to survive. While cocoa beans are the most profitable crop in the region, aging trees and inefficient farming practices on these small farms are forcing families to live off less than $1 per day. Children are often required to remain home from school to work on these farms in dangerous conditions, sacrificing their education and continuing the cycle of poverty.
In 2010, founder of Kim’s Chocolate, Fons Maex visited Mbeya, Tanzania in search of incredible single origin, organic chocolate. While he found exactly what he was looking for, he was also shocked by the dire conditions forcing Mbeya’s farming families to live in extreme poverty and knew he needed to help. Fons created Cocoa for Schools based on the belief that providing quality, consistent education is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty and child labour.
The belief across the Cocoa for Schools team is that the key to eliminating poverty lies in access to quality education. With an average of more than 100 students sharing one dilapidated classroom and not enough school books to go around, children in Mbeya are missing out on the education they deserve and require to thrive. Cocoa for Schools’ mission is to help each village across Mbeya build and renovate a grand total of 2,000 classrooms, enough to accommodate each child. The project is also working to purchase a total of 430,000 books so each child has access to school supplies. These changes will make a drastic difference to education in Mbeya and will offer students a comfortable environment to learn and grow.
To ensure farmland remains profitable for generations to come, the Cocoa for Schools project also needed to make sustainability a priority. The project provides each village with the tools and knowledge required to flourish into the future from learning how to craft the bricks for their schools out of sustainable materials, to promoting carbon emission reducing farming practices across the region.
Cocoa for Schools is also working to eliminate the use of kerosene lamps by replacing them with inexpensive solar panel units. Not only are kerosene lamps toxic and dangerous for the families, they are also extremely expensive. The average Tanzanian household spends 1/3 of their income on Kerosene to light their home.
The Cocoa for Schools project has begun selling solar panel units house to house, by making a handful of monthly payments using money they would otherwise have spent on kerosene, villagers are able to buy their own solar panel. Once purchased, these families are able to free up 1/3 of their income to pay for necessities like school uniforms, food and clothing. All of the proceeds from each solar panel unit are used to purchase more school books for the children, directly aiding the project.
A commitment to creating sustainable communities is at the heart of the Cocoa for Schools project. By supporting small local farmers across Mbeya and helping to build a better environment for good education, Cocoa for Schools hopes to provide the foundational building blocks for communities that will thrive for years to come. Each bar of Waterbridge Single Origin chocolate uses cocoa beans purchased at a premium price directly from farmers in Mbeya, Tanzania, helping these small, family owned farms to flourish. For more information about the Cocoa for Schools project, please watch the Cocoa for Schools film here.