Cacao and the challenge of rural living in international development

Why I love cacao will be in another post, you just have to know it exists. 

Came across this great article on two international development folks getting involved in speciality cacao from Tanzania. Despite my love for Latin America, I am always glad to see African countries being included in the realm of specialty chocolate.

It’s disheartening (code word for shitty) that this crop was forced upon them through colonialism, innovation stifled by government oversight and regulation and now is often considered some of the lowest quality cacao.

One key part mentioned in this article is the rurality of their location, 500 km from Dar Es Salaam, with spotty mobile connection and off-the-grid living. I am often torn in seeking my own career in international development. In my heart, I want to be on the ground. Alongside farmers, planting, harvesting, as well as handling business aspects including sales, logistics, even financing. This often includes living with rural communities for extended periods of time, months, years, which helps build trust as well as a deep understanding of the challenges that come with agricultural or other forms of economic development.

Yet I still want to do all the things that come with city living – social dancing, meetup events, different restaurants, ability to travel, proximity to family, etc.

I am known to be one to have my cake and eat it too, but it seems like this might not be one of those situations. There is also the possiblity of doing one and then the other, but I fear (maybe irrationally?) of missing out on my chance to build a family, spend time with friends,or explore my other passions. As I’m writing this and thinking about the fears I thought I had, I realized I could find them through this work.

Building a family: Might meet other ID folks in the field, who have a similar sort of mindset and understand the nature of the work, my current partner might be up for the journey.

Exploring my passions: I might be so passionate about the work I’m doing? I can maybe work on them privately?

Advancing my career: In ID, on-the-ground experience is extremely important and can be seen as an asset

Spending time with friends: I might grow incredibly close to the people in the local community, and would have the chance to learn a new language.

Proximity to family: This one is most likely impossible. I could try and figure a schedule where I could have prolonged time away (1-2 months) in which I plan to see everyone I wont be with.


It’s possible, but not without sacrifices. Now is the time to figure whether I want to make those sacrifices or not.



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