Help Fight Chocolate Extinction!

chocolate!

First the honeybees (and duh, the honey) and now chocolate is on the decline? Say it ain’t so!!

According to this CNN article on the subject of chocolate extinction, “Yields are declining all across the cocoa plantations of West Africa, where two thirds of the world’s supply is grown, as soils are degraded and the area able to support the crop retreats>”

But wait, there’s a solution!

I only eat fair-trade chocolate made from organic cocoa beans- and you should too! Not only does it taste soooooo much better, it prevents the very situation that’s degrading the land where cocoa beans are grown. The deal is that to make money (and cheap chocolate), farmers in Ghana and other chocolate-growing countries have to take down the rainforest and plant cocoa bean plants in unnatural ways. And what happens when you mess with Mother Nature?

The problem is that cocoa is naturally a rainforest plant that grows in shady conditions surrounded by a high biodiversity, but recently hybrid varieties have been grown on cleared land as mono-cultures and in full sun.

While this will give higher short term yields, the soil quickly becomes degraded and the lifespan of plants can be cut from 75 or 100 years, to 30 or less. When the trees die and the land is exhausted the farmers must move on and clear more rainforest to plant cocoa.

No chocolate (horrors!) AND no rainforest (probably worse-no, I admit, definitely worse).

Three of my favorites are pictured above (and don’t forget, dark chocolate is healthier than milk and because it’s vegan, it has a lower carbon footprint), so stick to organic, fair trade dark chocolates, which support healthy growing conditions for cocoa plants- and for the people that farm them.

TRY: Divine Chocolate (from an awesome worker-owned cooperative, this stuff is AMAZING!)
Green and Black’s (crazy yummy flavors like Ginger)
Trader Joe’s house brand (my fave is with pecans and raisins)

Yes, they are more expensive- chocolate is a treat and should be labor-intensive to grow if done properly. So eat less of it, and enjoy it more! Commercial chocolate tastes like wax flavored with old cocoa beans swept off the floor of a Dickensian factory (probably I’m not far off). Hey, if we don’t save the chocolate, think about what’s left!! CAROB. ‘Nuf said.

About Starre Vartan
Starre Vartan is editor-in-chief of Eco-Chick.com and the author of the Eco-Chick Guide to Life.

7 Comments

  1. I love Newman’s peanut butter cups. Organic and yummy. Newman’s cocoa comes from small farms in Costa Rica and the company supports sustainable that protect the rainforest.

    Also, Rapunzel — organic swiss chocolate. They too support sustainable farming and fair trade. The cocoa is grown in Bolivia and Dominican Republic.

  2. Fair Trade and organic chocolate is definitely the way to preserve the environment and also support companies that are taking a stand against forced child labor, which is rampant in the cocoa industry. In the Ivory Coast alone, the State Department estimates that more than one hundred thousand children working in the cocoa plantations are subjected to “the worst forms of child labor.”

    I’d throw in Theo Chocolate and Yachana Cocoa Nibs [http://www.shopequita.com/fchy1486.htm} to the mix for favs!

    Props to Divine for a wickedly tasty bar and a great example of leading by the principles of Fair Trade. (details from the Democracy Now! transcript http://www.democracynow.org/2007/2/14/child_labor_the_hidden_ingredient_to):
    “There are three particular chocolate companies that have done an excellent job of developing the local communities and bringing in the farmers as stakeholders, meaning that in one particular company, Divine Chocolate, which is a company based out of England, but has just now begun sales across the United States, they have entered into a partnership with Kuapa Kokoo, which is a cocoa cooperative in Ghana. And the company itself is owned by investors in England, but also I think—and I don’t have the number offhand, but I think it’s around 45% of the company is owned by the African farmers themselves. The cooperative is a cooperative of 20,000 farmers, who each receive a premium on top of the sale price of the cocoa, so that way they can provide each other microcredit for other types of income-earning sources, but also so they can get their children into schools and help develop the local education system.”
    –BRIAN CAMPBELL, Attorney with the International Labor Rights Fund.

  3. I always drank fair trade coffee and after visiting a coffee, sugar cane, and chocolate plantations in the Dominican Republic I buy faire trade chocolate. Did you know that they still use oxcarts to haul the cut sugar cane from the fields in the DR because they are cheaper for the farmers to own than trucks?

  4. “Yes, they are more expensive- chocolate is a treat and should be labor-intensive to grow if done properly. ”

    Are you insane?! You’re basically saying that the people in far away nations who grow cocoa should be working their asses off so you can have your ‘guilt free’ treat. Why should fair trade cocoa be labour intensive to grow? Isn’t the whole point of fair trade to ensure fair treatment of the people who grow what is being traded?!

  5. Tempyra,

    You’ve misunderstood my comment- I’m not suggesting that the cocoa farmers work harder- indeed fair trade IS all about making sure various products are produced in conditions that are well-paid and not back-breaking. (And non-fair trade, conventional farming techniques are often abusive- see commenters above). However, ALL organic agriculture does tend to be more labor-intensive since instead of pesticides, herbicides and monoculture crops that degrade the environment, human labor is used- as long as this labor is done in a fair way, I have no problem with it as it provides a good income to a local community while preserving biodiversity. People in the community are paid fairly for their labor, and likely more of them would be working- which COSTS more for the end consumer but doesn’t mean that these people are individually working harder than conventional cocoa-growing, indeed they should be working less and being paid more.

  6. Starre,

    What I quoted was not a comment – it was from the concluding paragraph of your post. And I don’t think I misunderstood it, I think you mis-wrote whatever it was you were thinking.

    This:
    “Yes, they are more expensive – but chocolate is a treat and it is more labour-intensive to grow fair trade cocoa using organic methods.”

    Probably reflects what you were trying to say better than this:

    “Yes, they are more expensive- chocolate is a treat and should be labor-intensive to grow if done properly.”

    Why don’t you change it?

  7. I *LOVE* chocolate! And a cleaner Earth & worker justice. So of course my chocolate must be organic and fair trade. Lucky for me I have a warehouse with a commercial frig *full* of organic & fair trade chocolate! With most of the brands mentioned above and more, YUM! Oh, OK, I can share some with you. Just visit my website to order. In Harmony and Chocolaty Happiness, – Kate

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