As Mother’s Day approaches, we at Meridian began to think of not only our own hardworking mothers, whom we adore, but all mothers, especially those involved in the craft chocolate movement. What about the mothers that farm? What about the mothers who work tirelessly on cocoa farms that are rarely seen or spoken of? We often don’t get a chance to honor these women, to appreciate them, to see them and to know their story. And thus, in honor of all mothers, we wanted to introduce you to a very special woman: Sara Maglass.
Sara “Mama” Maglass is the mother of 7 children. She is a smallholder farmer, living in the beautiful foothills of the Udzungwa Mountains in Tanzania, East Africa. In addition to farming cocoa, the Maglass family grows bananas and raises chickens. Mama Maglass also keeps a kitchen garden to help complement the family’s meals. Mama Maglass and her husband planted their first cocoa seedlings 10 years ago.
The Maglass family sells their cocoa to Kokoa Kamili. Sara’s husband, Philemon Maglass was actually the very first farmer that Kokoa Kamili’s founders Brian LoBue and Simran Bindra met while exploring Tanzanian cocoa farms. At the time, the Maglass family was considering cutting down some of their cocoa trees when they serendipitously met Brian and Simran. As their relationship grew, the Maglass’ decided to take a chance on Kokoa Kamili and see if their operation could truly improve the market for cocoa in Tanzania. Quickly the Maglass’ cocoa crops became their most profitable harvest; Mama Maglass explains through a Swahili Translator:
“Kokoa Kamili pays much more for cocoa than the other buyers. Also we don’t have to spend time fermenting and drying our beans and so we can get paid faster. This is good because sometimes we have unexpected expenses.”
Profits were on the rise and the Maglass family was feeling thankful they did not discontinue any of their farming cocoa crops.
But in the midst of the Maglass’ families success, tragedy hit and Philemon, Mama Maglass’ husband, unexpectedly died.
This heartbreaking turn of events left Mama Maglass widowed with 7 children to care for on her own. Without hesitation, Mama Maglass took over the management of the cocoa farm, along with the family’s other crops and her many duties as a mother.
“With the sad and untimely loss of their father, all seven of the Maglass children are lucky that they are supported by such a strong, resilient mother” Simran shared.
Mama Maglass did not allow her family's tragedy to halt their production of cocoa. Instead, she worked even harder, growing the families cocoa crops to help subsidize the loss of her husband’s work and income. With much determination, Mama Maglass continued to successfully farm cocoa. As her family's harvest grew, she has become an integral part of Kokoa Kamili. Today her family’s cocoa farm is among the largest suppliers that Kokoa Kamili works with in Tanzania. Her family has one of the most efficient and productive cocoa plots in the area. She is even considering expanding. Mama Magalss’ relationship with Kokoa Kamili has helped provide her family with an abundance of financial security. Mama Maglass says, “I’ve used the income from selling cocoa to expand our house, to pay school tuition for my children, and for household expenses.” She says that Kokoa Kamili even loaned her money to finish the construction on her home. Working together, Mama Maglas alongside Kokoa Kamili have had a relationship filled with successes.
To Mama Maglass this Mother’s Day: We wish you much love and success. We appreciate all that you do for Kokoa Kamili, Meridian Cacao, and the countless chocolate makers around the globe using and enjoying your cocoa beans.