Located in the east of the Congo, Virunga National Park is one of the most biodiverse places on Earth. In the last 10 years, it has become a major economic player in a region recovering from 20 years of civil war, a benefit for the local communities as well as crucial to climate stability.

Since 2013, and under the guidance of Emmanuel de Merode, Virunga Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has become the repository of an innovative economic model. A new approach to conservation aiming at promoting peace and prosperity through a responsible economic development of natural resources.

Launched in 2020, the factory is operated by local populations and 100% of profits go to the Park and the surrounding communities. Eating a Virunga Origins product is contributing to the development of one of the most biodiverse, stunning yet insecure, places on earth: “Eat chocolate, get double happiness”.

Virunga National Park is creating ripples of change that deliver value and opportunities to the communities surrounding it. Privileging local distribution channels, Virunga Origins produces chocolate “from bean to bar”. Belgian Dominique Persoone, one of the world’s most prominent master chocolatiers, joined the project to train the Virunga Origins’ team in the art of chocolate making.

Learn about the inspiring example of an alternative economic concept, the operation of Virunga Origins’ factory and about the importance of developing the economy and local industry to cultivate peace.


Emmanuel de Merode

An anthropologist, environmentalist, and pilot, Emmanuel has worked to control the bushmeat trade and protect endangered wildlife in Central and East Africa. He has been supporting African wildlife rangers in remote and difficult national parks and reserves. He has worked primarily in the parks of eastern DRC, striving to maintain national parks during the 15-year civil war in DRC.

In 2008, he was appointed by the Congolese government as the director of Virunga National Park. He has since worked to demilitarise the national park, restore the rule of law in a park once controlled by rebel militias, initiate local development, and bring in significant funding through social media, local businesses, and tourism development.

Dominique Persoone

Chocolatier Dominique Persoone is one of the world’s most prominent chocolatiers. His expertise and audacity has seduced the world’s greatest chefs as well as music stars such as the Rolling Stones, Tina Turner, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Bryan Ferry who have decided to call on his services.

Dominique Persoone is Virunga Origins renowned chocolatier. He has trained the Virunga Origins team in the fine art of chocolate making with an emphasis on quality and taste. For a passionate chocolatier like Dominique, making chocolate where the cocoa actually grows is a dream come true. With Virunga Origins, he and his team receive the beans directly from the cocoa tree before transforming them into chocolate. Recently, Dominique received the prestigious Gault & Millau award for Belgian Chocolatier of the Year 2023 for Flanders.

Roger Marora

Roger Marora, 34 years old, from Lubero, on the edge of the Virunga National Park, is a chemical and agricultural industries engineer at the University of Goma. Roger grew up in the cocoa zone and has always been fascinated by the transformation of beans into quality chocolate bars. Prior to working for Virunga Origins, Roger made his own chocolate based on online videos and tutorials while working as a production manager at a local juice factory.

When Dominique Persoone arrived for the launch of the factory and the initial training of the staff, Roger came from Goma, on his own, to start working for Virunga Origins as an intern. Driven by his motivation and energy, Roger quickly became the plant’s production manager. With the supervision of Dominique and the other partners, Roger was able to develop his skills as a chocolatier to become a true Congolese master chocolatier.


  • 18:30 > Welcome
  • 19:00 – 20:00 > Conference and Q&A


Register for the event

TheMerode, is a private social members club, where comfort, glamour and intimacy coexist through and for our members. They are at the heart of everything we do and we strive to make them feel home. That’s why all our events are exclusively organized for our members and their guests.

As a member, you can invite up to three guests.

    Do you want to invite guests for this event?

    First guest

    Second guest

    Third guest

    My information

    I agree that TheMerode keeps the data I have provided above to send me information about its activities. I acknowledge that I have read the provisions of the Privacy Policy regarding the protection of my personal data and accept them.

    (i)Members are deemed to have obtained the consent of their guests to have their personal data processed in the same way as Wild Gallery processes the personal data of members and
    (ii) they are requested and agree to inform their guests of the conditions of processing, retention, access, correction and deletion of their personal data.

    If you wish to cancel a booking, you must notify us at least 48h in advance by sending an email to members@themerode.com. In such case, you will be refunded. If you cancel your booking less than 48h, you will not be refunded.

    We would love to welcome you to this event but as it is a members only event we kindly invite you to join our community or subscribe as a guest of one of our members.

      Member who is inviting me to the conference

      My information

      We kindly remind you that you will have to be accompagnied by one of our members upon arrival at the Club.

      If you wish to cancel a booking, you must notify us at least 48h in advance by sending an email to members@themerode.com. In such case, you will be refunded. If you cancel your booking less than 48h, you will not be refunded.


      Need more information ? Contact us