The son of farmers, Alexis Kalinda has made a living from farming, mainly in the coffee industry. “I noticed that food shops were selling chocolate bars and I thought that there was room for improvement in that area,” he says. So he threw himself into the industry, with the idea of “making chocolate” from start to finish.
In Walikale, in his native North Kivu, he took over land that the Belgians had planted in 1950 and subsequently abandoned. He trained the region’s farmers in cocoa farming, helped them to form cooperatives and taught them good farming practices that don’t include pesticides. “[In order] to have a quality product and obtain organic certification for our cocoa and chocolate,” says the entrepreneur.
Exporting to Germany
In 2013, Kalinda conducted his first processing tests in the family kitchen in Goma. Analyses in the US confirmed that the beans were of good quality and encouraged him to embark on this adventure. He then created his company, the Lowa chocolate factory, named after the river that crosses the two Kivus and Maniema before flowing into the Congo River.
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The company obtains its supplies from 500 growers, whom it has helped to structure into three cooperatives, and 130 independent growers, each of whom has a 1-hectare plantation. His production is limited to 200kg of chocolate per month. “Our three machines can only produce 2.5kg of chocolate per day,” says Kalinda, before adding that three additional machines capable of churning out 50kg per day would allow him to increase production to the level he wants.
Chocolaterie Lowa makes cocoa butter as well as dark, white and milk chocolate bars of 20, 45 and 80 grams, with hints of chilli, ginger, peanut, coffee, black pepper, roasted bean chips, etc. Its markets? “Goma, Kinshasa and Lubumbashi,” says the chocolate maker, who plans to export to Germany soon.
It is possible to increase the supply of cocoa without destroying the forest, as the raw material is available. “I do community conservation. I protect the gorillas. So I won’t destroy the forest with my activities,” says Kalinda. The chocolate packaging features a crab, an okapi, a gorilla and a loincloth design. “We wanted to link our chocolate to the DRC’s history and biodiversity and show that we make it with Congolese products, for Congolese people.”
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