One Year Farming Program in the Dominican Republic – A Visit Report

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By Sonya Albisser

Dominican Republic /

I work as a shop manager for Lindt & Sprüngli in Lucerne, Switzerland. In my day-to-day work, I have noticed that in recent years more and more customers have been paying greater attention to the sustainability of our products and asking us specifically about our efforts in this area. Each time I am asked, I refer to the Lindt & Sprüngli Farming Program, which ensures the sustainable production of our cocoa beans and supports the farmers, their families and their communities.

Since sustainability is also very dear to me, for a long time, I had been wanting to see the commitment of Lindt & Sprüngli on the ground for myself. I was very happy when I learned that in 2018 the Farming Program had been established in the Dominican Republic as well. What better place to find out more about sustainability than in a country where I had lived for several years? I contacted the Lindt & Sprüngli Sustainability Team and was quickly put in touch with our local partner. My next vacation was planned.

In the Middle of the Forest, Far Away from Mass Tourism

My son and I traveled five hours by car to meet José Efrain, representing our partner Fuparoca/Rizek. He had organized this “day in the field" for us.

At 7am we enjoyed a typical Dominican workers’ breakfast of mangu (mashed plantains) with onions and fried eggs. Afterwards we set off together in two jeeps towards Cotui. The nearer we got to our destination, the bumpier our journey became. Along the way we picked up farmers who were waiting at the side of the road. We had to walk the final stretch on foot, passing coffee plants, banana plants and cocoa trees. It was a world away from mass tourism, in the middle of the forest.

After we had arrived, we were able to take part in a training course for farmers who had recently joined the Lindt & Sprüngli Farming Program. The first part of the training consisted of reviewing what they had already learned and discussing how they were doing when it came to implementing it. One of the problems farmers face in the Dominican Republic is the age of their cocoa trees. They are often very old and as a result no longer very productive. To remedy this, in the second part of the training the farmers learned a method for rejuvenating their trees – a process known as grafting. This technique improves harvest results faster than planting seedlings.

Chocolate from Sustainable Production

It was now time for us to leave the training and visit a farmer’s cocoa plantation. We were warmly welcomed by his wife, and the farmer proudly showed us his thriving cocoa trees. He cut open the thick skin of a cocoa pod and presented us the 30-60 seeds – what we know as cocoa beans – surrounded by white pulp. He gave us the sweet, delicious pulp to taste.

On our way back, we stopped at a school. José Efrain told us that this school, which is also supported by the Lindt & Sprüngli Farming Program, is very important for the village and for the surrounding villages as well. Lindt & Sprüngli provides help in the form of training courses in the areas of environmental protection, health and nutrition.

It is very gratifying to see how much has been achieved in just one year with the Farming Program in the Dominican Republic. The rejuvenation of trees to increase quality and productivity is only a small part of Lindt & Sprüngli’s efforts here, which benefit not only farmers and their families but also entire communities.

It makes me proud to be able to sell chocolate that is produced using sustainable methods.

About the Author

Sonya Albisser / Working as a Lindt shop manager in Lucerne, Switzerland.

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