Since 2017, AYITIKA has been developing an original, competitive model for producing cocoa, then chocolate. This promise, born of the combined ambition and expertise of agronomist Jean-Chesnel Jean and supported by Caribbean Export, today ensures the future of 2,000 rural families and the production of quality chocolate.
Jean-Chesnel was born in Abricots, in the Grande Anse region of southern Haiti. Trained as an agronomist, he specialized in Economics and Sociology at the Faculté Universitaire des Sciences Agronomiques de Gembloux. Fundamentally interested in sustainable development, he has worked in various agricultural sectors and traveled to the world’s largest basin of quality cocoa, in Latin America. This enabled him to appreciate Haiti’s potential and understand that cocoa could be a sustainable and competitive project.
Haiti is capable!
In Creole, “Ayiti ka” means “Haiti can”. Haiti is capable… And that’s what led Jean-Chesnel to set up his own company, based on a special model. ” Cocoa is a highly competitive market. To carve out a place for itself in this international market, it was necessary to find a lasting, credible solution: a technical model. “.
While historically in Haiti, cocoa has tended to be grown in the North and Grande Anse, AYITIKA has chosen to develop new terroirs in the South, Southeast and Nippes, given their agroecological potential. From the outset, the company initiated a technical approach in collaboration with CIRAD. On the basis of aroma, disease resistance and productivity criteria, it pre-selected 250 “elite” cocoa trees from the remnants of cocoa plantations in these terroirs. After 2 years of observation, 98 of these – the most reliable – have been cloned by grafting. They are kept in genetic banks as part of the country’s heritage, then multiplied in nurseries for distribution to rural families.
Creating a new class of cocoa farmers
Once the raw material and its genetics had been mastered, it was time to create a high-performance, sustainable model. Ayitika collaborated with Costa Rica’s CATIE to train a dozen young people in technical management and cocoa-based agroforestry systems.
“AYITIKA promotes the Creole garden invented by the Haitian slave,” recalls the agronomist.. “A plot of land on which various crops are planted to ensure year-round food security. Over time, this production model proves to be the most resilient.
The Fondation Connaissance et Liberté, FOKAL, will support the model with a back-to-the-land project, enabling some thirty young people in the Camp-Perrin area to supplement their income. Then a UN-Environment agroforestry program and other players took an interest, purchasing both Ayitika’s technical services and the inputs produced (quality cocoa seedlings, biofertilizers, biopesticides, fruit and forest seedlings) to support rural families.
Today, Ayitika works with 2,000 producers, managing 600 hectares of cocoa gardens. Beyond the technical dimension, Ayitika develops social and economic innovations to ensure the sustainability of the model. Partner growers are grouped together in a farmers’ association called RASIN (French for root). In this way, the company maintains a strategic partnership that facilitates the co-construction of innovations, the adoption of good farming practices by rural families, the traceability of cocoa, respect for quality standards and fair remuneration of farmers.
From root… to to the shelf
In 2021, with the first pods and the support of Caribbean Export, the chocolate factory project is born. Ayitika first turned to Belgium for knowledge and expertise in cocoa fermentation and processing. ” On the global market, those who make money are not the producers of raw materials, but those who can produce added value,” reminds the Ayitika designer.
With the help of Caribbean Export, Ayitika can now develop its new ” From root to bar ” approach. The agency finances a consultant to set up a quality and processing laboratory and train the company’s technical staff to use and manage it. The first of its kind in Haiti, this laboratory will benefit the country’s entire cocoa value chain. The project also enables us to communicate on the quality of our cocoa and bring more direct added value to producers.
2022, an important turning point for Ayitika
In February 2022, Ayitika will take part in the exchange of best practices organized by Caribbean Export with Dominican companies. The mission, which will focus on the Dominican cocoa promotion and marketing strategy, production and processing techniques and organizational management mechanisms implemented by CONACADO, will also give Ayitika the opportunity to get closer to Definite chocolate. The Dominican brand has agreed to take on a Haitian trainee to share its know-how, in particular with regard to compliance with procedures and the preparation of aroma profiles.
Armed with all this experience, Aytika developed four flavors and launched its own brand. In November 2022, with the support of Caribbean Export, the young chocolaterie will take part in the Paris chocolate fair. Its Haitian-made tablets – although Haiti is usually a supplier of raw materials for French companies – have been a great success. “There isn ‘t just one chocolate from Haiti, there are as many as there are terroirs,” explains Jean Chesnel.
Ayitika wins the “Médaille Gourmet Paris”!
This experience enabled Ayitika to see how people reacted to its products, and also to make contact with distributors in Europe. It also took part in the3rd ” Chocolats fabriqués à l’origine” competition, organized by the Agence pour la Valorisation des Produits Agricoles (AVPA.ft ), and was awarded the ” Médaille Gourmet Paris“.
The year 2022 ended with the participation of the young chocolate company in a training session organized by the Capacity Building Program for the new European Organic Regulation in cooperation with the ITC for beneficiary companies of the HT-DR bi-national cocoa value chain project. This training, supported by Caribbean Export, focused on raising awareness of the new EU legislation requirements, which call for greater standardization of production systems in cocoa gardens and the marketing (traceability, packaging, transport) of the company’s products.
All these skills and knowledge have been added to the brand’s early successes, enabling Ayitika to look forward to 2023 with confidence, promoting a quality product that is traceable, ready to export and, above all, truly fair trade and biodiversity-friendly.
*CIRAD: Centre de coopération internationale en recherche agronomique pour le développement (French agricultural research and international cooperation organization for the sustainable development of tropical regions).
Photo: Marc Lee Steed