Guest Post

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

The Millot plantation, Madagascar

There is only one cocoa producing area in Madagascar: Ambanja, in the north of the country, north and south of the river Sambirano, the leading producer is certainly the Millot Plantation. They don’t handle only cacao but also spices and essential oils, especially ylang ylang.
Cacao arrived on the island as seedlings from Venezuela 100 years ago! Once Venezuelan criollo, they have later developed their own flavor: there are now three types of cacao cultivated in Millot who are responsible for the drying and fermenting of the bean that is produced in this area. The Millot plantation started producing cacao in the 1920’s and it is famous for its fine flavored beans which are used by some of the most well-known chocolate makers. The plantation is open to visitors (€ 10.00) and is often listed as one of the world’s top plantations.
Because the plantation spreads over 15 sq. km, you’ll need a vehicle. If you don’t have your own one, you have to hire at the plantation. As well as making visit of the Plantation you can also sleep and dine in their wonderful farmhouse, Maison du Planteur B&B for reasonable price. (Lunch and Plantation visit € 25.00, B&B € 20.00) Marlene, the owner’s wife, is from Cameroon so she speaks good English as well.
She is very informative and a curious woman, during the visit, she will explain how each plant is grown, picked and processed. There are more than 1000 employers working here, most of them are women. Many of them live inside the plantation so you can also see huts with daily life going on. Seems also that the Millot support a primary school attended by the children of their employers. I highly recommend a stay with Marlene, she is such an interesting person. I wondered asking her during the visit how much can they earn from the plantation and she answered me: I earn as much as enough to pay all my employers well and to give a decent life to my family!!!
At the beginning of the visit, she told us to ask always the employers before  taking photos of them. I didn't really understand if it was whether a form of respect towards them or because she didn't like photos at her property and therefore used them as shield. She is a strong woman with a great personality and I have brought home something from her that I will never forget: I never quarrel with the ones I love, because they are a gift from heaven she told me at the end! Most of the tourists end up with spending their vacation in big resorts in Nosy Be, without even knowing that the journey from Nosy Be to Ambanja is very short, infact the boat trip to the main island takes about half an hour. The pubblic trasport to Ankifi (the arrival port at the main island side) costs 1000 ari ari and the private speed boats around 80.000 ari ari. In this case you pay for the boat and not for the person. So groups can better travel privately. Negotiating was not possible, they didn't change the price even if we begged for long. We had to travel with the private speed boat due to the break down of the pubblic ferry at the last moment. As soon as they got the money from both of us (80.000 ari ari) they also strated to load up the boat with the locals, asking them to pay 1000 ari ari each as well. They at least should have travelled free because we have already paid the amount for the full travel service. Or otherwise we should have paid less, discounting what they had been able to collect from others. Most of the locals travelling here with us were girls (young prostitutes) going for their night business in Ambatoloaka. If you want to avoid this make sure to ask the boat man before paying him. In case instead you make the crossing with the pubblic ferry, you shoud get back to Nosy Be just after the lunch to avoid the girls.