Brendan Fusco (left) with 2018 CU Students (Walker Montgomery, Hunter Skornia, Heath Fusco) in Tanzania.
This past week, fourteen other students and myself have traveled alongside the leadership of Askinosie Chocolate. Askinosie Chocolate has four different origin locations, and this experience took us straight to southwestern Tanzania. Although this was very much a business trip, (as Shawn likes to remind us) what is striking everywhere we went was the camaraderie that existed between the cocoa farmers and the entire team at Askinosie.
The second we stepped off our bus in the small village of Mababu, we were greeted by the entire membership of the Mababu Central Cocoa Fermentary (aka CCF). Every single one of us was individually welcomed by the farmers with a handshake and a hearty “Karibu,” which means “welcome” in Swahili. This relationship was further exemplified by the innumerable times the Askinosie team and the local farmers referred to each other as brothers and sisters.
Since Askinosie Chocolate and Mababu CCF teamed up about a decade ago, Mababu has quite literally been put on the map in the world of chocolate. In fact, one of the most touching moments of the entire experience for me was when Shawn updated the CCF on how their chocolate had fared on the global stage this year. A few years ago, Shawn had presented the leader of the Co-op, Mama Mpoki, with a plaque signifying that they had won a silver award. Her immediate response was, “What do we have to do to win gold?”. So this year at a CCF meeting, Lawren Askinosie, Chief Marketing Officer, presented Mama Mpoki with a gold award, sending everyone into an eruption of screams, dances, and celebrations.
To me, the key the prosperity both sides of the partnership are currently experiencing all comes back to the concept of profit-sharing. As the amount of chocolate Askinosie sells increases, the farmers are directly rewarded not only with a commission, but they are filled with tremendous pride and joy. The success of their cocoa beans also allows for continued improvement in infrastructure and education in Mababu. Many of these developments were created by the farmers with the support of Askinosie Chocolate, which further cements an already solid partnership.
I saw many great things in Tanzania this week that I’ll remember forever, but I think what will stand out the most for me is the unique partnership between Askinosie Chocolate & the Mababu farmers. One of my major interests going into college is international diplomacy. This trip allowed me to witness cultural barriers fall for a common mission which I believe is the true essence of diplomacy. I truly believe that if Mababu’s farmers continue to provide world-class cocoa beans and Askinosie Chocolate continues to make world-class chocolate, that this business partnership is simply the beginning of a friendship that will last a very long time.