Our farm supervisor, Joeli Nataki, comes from Nadi, on the West of Fiji's main island, Viti Levu. Cocoa was not part of his family background; however, he has worked previously in the papaya export industry and has rapidly picked up the special skills needed to work with cocoa. He has proven particularly adept at the delicate art of grafting – growing one kind of tree on the roots of another. If you are interested, you can ask him to give you a demonstration! Joeli usually leads the tours of the farm, sharing his growing knowledge of cocoa and leavening the rich cocoa information with his own perspective on Pacific island farming systems and culture.
Our senior nurseryman, Waisea, has tended the farm from the beginning – clearing the dense undergrowth, planting cover crops and trees to ‘capture’ the site and eventually establishing the orderly rows and terraces that you see now. The hard work is not over. In a high-rainfall tropical climate, the vegetation is always ready to get out of hand – but at least now we can focus on the pleasanter work of managing the cocoa in the shade, rather than battling the weeds under full sun. Waisea is an elder of the community of Vunivesi, some 17 km outside of Savusavu, on the cross-island road.
Our office manager and receptionist, Atelina Ranadi, has a background in accounting and is currently pursuing studies in tourism and human resources. She has rapidly become caught up in the spirit of chocolate and, as well as keeping our 'books' in order, she can help with chocolate-making and guide our visitors through the various stages of manufacture.
Our kitchen assistant and cleaner, Saras Wati, keeps the place immaculate, in line with international food safety guidelines and helps with the preparation of flavours and ingredients. Saras also has a 'green thumb', helping to ensure that our ornamental plants look at their very best.