How ethical chocolate is changing the face of cocoa farming for good

How ethical chocolate is changing the face of cocoa farming for good

. 4 min read

Where does your chocolate come from?

When you’re buying chocolate, do you ever stop to think about what it’s made of and where it comes from?

For many of us, chocolate is a satisfying treat, wrapped up neatly on a supermarket shelf. And we don’t pay much thought to how it got there. But we should.

What is chocolate made of?

Chocolate is made from cocoa beans, mixed with other ingredients, like milk and sugar. The higher the cocoa bean content, the darker and richer the chocolate. Cocoa beans come from cocoa pods, which grow on cacao trees. But many people who enjoy chocolate have no idea what a cocoa pod looks like. And many cocoa farmers have never tasted chocolate.

Where are cocoa beans grown?

Cacao trees need a certain climate to thrive and are grown mainly in Africa and South America. Around 40% of the world’s cocoa comes from the Ivory Coast. Here, cocoa production is the main business and accounts for two thirds of jobs. It makes up around 15% of the country’s GDP and 50% of exports.

Grated dark chocolate

The problem with chocolate...

The chocolate supply chain is fraught with crime, corruption and exploitation. But some of the biggest problems are in the cocoa farms themselves.

Farmers and their families are living in poverty

Chocolate is a wealthy industry making well over £74 billion a year. But this wealth is not distributed evenly through the supply chain. Between the farmers and the chocolate manufacturers, there are a series of middlemen who are all taking a slice of the profits. The bulk of the profits go to the cocoa trading companies that sell direct to the manufacturers. Most African cocoa farmers make less than 74p per day and, on average, less than £147 a year — which is nowhere near a living wage. These farmers are living in poverty and unable to provide for their families, so they’ve turned to desperate measures to make their living pay.

Protected forests are being destroyed

When the farmers were unable to get a fair price for their cocoa beans, they felt their only way out of poverty was to increase production. To do this, they needed more land to grow more cacao trees. The farmers encroached into protected forests, where the land was more fertile. To make the space they needed, they destroyed the existing trees by setting fire to their roots. Since 1990, the Ivory Coast has lost 85% of its forests in this way.

Baby clinging on back of mother working in Africa

Children are being forced into slavery

With more trees to manage, the farmers found they needed more help to harvest and process the cocoa beans. But if they had to pay more workers, they would never increase their profits. Instead, in another desperate move, they began trafficking children to work on the cocoa farms for free. In 2000, a British documentary highlighted this situation, creating widespread outrage. The government promised to fix the problem by 2005, but this never happened. They simply didn’t have the budgets for laws to protect the children.

The cocoa price crash

Eventually, it got to a point where the farmers were producing more cocoa than people wanted to buy. And between 2016 and 2017, the price of cocoa fell by more than a third. The farmers were no longer making money and found themselves back in poverty where they started. The price of cocoa has never fully recovered.

How you can help

If the farmers in Africa had been paid properly for their cocoa beans, they would never have been in poverty. And they wouldn’t have taken such drastic and devastating steps to find a way out. Companies selling fair trade chocolate are making a difference by paying farmers a fair price for their cocoa beans, so they can earn a living wage. By choosing fair trade chocolate, you’re supporting those farmers, so they and their families can have better lives.

Our ethical chocolate brand

Tony’s Chocolonely is a small Dutch brand built on a clear mission for change. In 2012 they teamed up with Callebaut, one of the biggest chocolate manufacturers in the world. Together, they’ve created a supply chain based on full traceability. They know exactly where their cocoa beans are coming from and that they’re 100% slave-free. It’s their mission to make all chocolate production sustainable by 2025.

A range of chocolate flavours

Our Tony’s Chocolonely bars come in a range of tempting varieties, including the vegan Dark Chocolate Almond Seasalt, the moreish Milk Chocolate Caramel Seasalt and the scrumptious Dark Milk Pretzel Toffee. And they taste even better when you know the cocoa beans are grown by fairly paid farmers with happy families.

Want to try Tony’s chocolate for yourself?

You can order Tony’s Chocolonely bars, and a whole range of other great products, direct from us. The information in this article comes from the Netflix documentary series ‘Rotten’ and the episode entitled ‘Bitter Chocolate’.