Yep, there is a day for chocolate just like there seems to be a day for everything else! Chocolate is special to us as we associate it with memories, desserts, romance and childhood, yet there are always two sides to every story.
We often don’t hear about how cocoa is obtained, as it is after all a natural product that has to be exploited from the land. On the subject of exploitation; it is important to remember that it is not just cocoa as a cash crop that is being exploited; we must think about the human beings that sweat and toil in cultivating the bean. So whilst chocolate is associated with pleasing the guilty-minded culinary taste buds of the waist-conscious western consumer, it ought to be possible for us to learn about where cocoa comes from, as the chocolate industry corporations such as Nestle, Cadbury and Hershey’s go to great lengths to source the cocoa bean in order for it to be ‘refined’ much like crude petroleum, into an edible product.
Chocolate Cash Crop
There is a strong connotation between cocoa farming, and the term “cash crop”. Of course the multi-nationals would rather you not know about how the two are connected. We often associate cocoa farming with cultivation businesses in West Africa, in nations such as Ghana, the Ivory Coast, Cameroon and so forth, yet it surprises many people to know that this part of the world never produced, had eaten, exported, imported or even dealt with raw cocoa and it’s end-product chocolate until very recently.
It was introduced by Europeans to the region during the Scramble for Africa in the mid to late 19th century, as cheap labour could be used to cultivate cocoa in order to satisfy the sweet toothed subjects back in the mother countries. The colonialists encouragement to produce cocoa as a cash crop (alongside groundnuts, bananas, and so on) meant that Africans had started to end the practise of subsistence farming which had fed families and livestock for millennia in order to appease the mainly British, French and German confectionery market.
“You wanna chocolate? I could eat about a million and a half of these…” – Forrest Gump
Now, you have just read about the situation in the 19th century regarding the advent of cocoa farming as a cash crop, what is the situation today? What does World Chocolate Day 2017 mean for the ‘global other’? Arguably, World Chocolate Day is a myth; a mere commercial operation conducted by the multi-national corporations in the developed world. If I was to have any rational say in the naming of this occasion, it ought to have two different names for different parts of the world.
So What Now?
For instance, if you happened to be living in developed countries such as the United States, in Western Europe, or Australia, it should be named First World Chocolate Commercialization Day. For those in the global south toiling in the cocoa plantations, it should be called Everyday. This is because everyday is chocolate day, everyday is hacking away at artificially planted cocoa beans with a machete for meager wages and everyday is working towards a product to which they would never enjoy the fruits of their labour.
For World Chocolate Day, or whatever you so wish to call it, I ask that you do not celebrate it as a day to buy lots of chocolate and watch for expanding waistline unbuckle into a inevitability of diabetes or coronary heart disease. You can best contribute to this occasion by sparing a thought to those ‘celebrating’ everyday. That being said, simply boycotting chocolate would be detrimental to both the farmer and the multi-nationals; therefore it would be wise to buy a Fairtrade, independent brand of chocolate that not only benefits your tastebuds, but also gives a better deal to the cocoa workers thousands of miles away.
Before you go off to buy your ethical Fairtrade chocolate, do spare a little time to watch this fascinating video on some Ivorian cocoa farmers trying chocolate for the first time:
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