We are writing historyCacao grows in the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New-Guinea, Thailand and Vietnam. The last two are both neighbouring Cambodia to the West and to the East. So one might assume that cacao would be no stranger in Cambodia as well. But the strange truth is that cacao and Cambodia never joined forces. Until we started a cacao farm. This later appeared to be the first cacao farm in Cambodian history.
1850’s – 1950’s in IndochineWhen the French arrived in South-East Asia as colonisers, they called the area of Laos, Cambodia and VIetnam ‘Indochine’. In that period, roughly between 1850 and 1950, the French were mainly interested in Vietnam. Next to a successful introduction of rubber plantations in Vietnam, they tried cacao as well. However, the results were disappointing. And maybe because of these negative test results, they never tried their cacao luck in Cambodia. At least, we could not find any records of any commercial cacao activity in Cambodia during that French colonisation period.
1980’s – 2010’s in VietnamThe Vietnamese themselves used coffee in the 1980’s to grant small farmers private land ownership. This crop became an overwhelming success and even resulted in Vietnam becoming the number two coffee exporter in the world. The ruling communist party of Vietnam hoped to repeat the success with cacao. But the attempt failed. Farmers rather stayed focused on coffee.
Finally, at the start of this new millennium and with the help of big market players like Cargill and Mars, cacao got the farmer’s attention, that it so desperately needed. Right now Vietnam is the proud producer of approximately 6,000 metric tons of cacao beans per year.
2010’s in CambodiaCambodia had other things on her mind. The devastating Khmer Rouge period put any other agricutural activity than rice to a halt. No one also ever suspected that the red volcanic soil and the altitude of the Mondulkiri and Ratankiri provinces would give such perfect conditions for a crop like cacao. These provinces were also far too isolated. Until the Chinese built a new asphalt road in 2007. This road reduced the travel time between Phnom Penh and the province capital Sen Monorom from more than two days to six hours.
In 2014 a Dutchman and a Cambodian, Stefan and Chanthol, became friends and decided to establish a a Cambodian cacao company called Kamkav Farm. Our founders bought land in a hilly and forested area near the famous Bu Sra waterfall in Mondulkiri. Because they lacked more detailed knowledge about cacao, they turned to the Vietnamese expert Dinh Lam for help. With the support of Lam and of Mars Sustainable they started the first cacao farm in Cambodian history
The initiative almost failed due to a devastating drought in 2015. Our company lost almost all of the cacao trees. We were knocked out but decided to start all over again and our perseverance was finally rewarded at the end of 2018 with our first cacao pods. Now we can proudly say that we put our Kingdom of Wonder on the world map as the 67th country that is producing cacao. And not just ordinary cacao but cacao with a truly unique flavour profile; thanks to the organic approach, the red soil, the altitude, the weather conditions in general and also our fermentation techniques. Our cacao beans are not sour, but nutty, floral and above all have a wonderful cacao flavour!
AgroforestryAs from 2017 we only use organic fertilizers like cow manure. This approach also resulted in our own small cow farm with the first 15 cows. We create compost on several locations in the farms where we mix organic material and cow manure. Our organic pest control means battling insects and fungi with our own formula of cooked leaves and bark from the neem tree, raising chickens to keep the amount of termites in control and using stingless bees for pollination of the cacao flowers. Mondulkiri is plagued by deforestation due to the high prices Vietnamese and Chinese companies pay for tropical timber. We try to bring back some forests by intercropping our cacao trees with banana, avocado, durian, jack fruit and shadow trees like Leucaena and of course Neem trees. Ecocert in Singapore has inspected our farms and we expect to get the organic certifications EOS and NOP in August 2020.
Elephants and Bunong TribesOnce the domain of thousands of tigers and elephants, Mondulkiri is now home to only 250 wild elephants and 50 captive elephants, mostly owned by Bunong tribe members. The last tiger has been seen more than a decade ago. An estimated 20,000 people are still considered to be a member of the handful of tribes that still live in Mondulkiri. Most of them are members of the Bunong tribe. If you like to visit Mondulkiri and want to swim and bath with elephants, than the local, mister Vanleang of Mondulkiri Tour is a good start: +855-(0)12 82 80 46
Who Are We?Meet the people behind the first cacao farm in Cambodian history
Chief Cacao Operations Officer
Nursery Manager and Team Leader
Assistant plantation manager