|Fair-Trade Chocolate: Consider the Soil Behind the Foil|
|Friday, 22 June 2012 00:00 | Written by Victoria Cho | Blog Entry|
As one of the world’s most popular food items, cocoa has been devoured, treasured and traded for years. From chefs to children, families to kings, republicans to anarchists, our love of the stuff often surpasses many cultural, economic and ideological differences. Yet as we sip on warm cups of it, bite into pastries frosted with it, or allow its rich chocolate squares to melt on our tongues, we may forget the struggles of the people and the health of the environment behind these precious beans.
That’s why Sustainable Tree Crops Program (STCP) exists. Aiming “to improve the economic and social well-being of smallholders and the environmental sustainability of tree crop farms," the program focuses on the world’s largest cocoa producers in West Africa and serves as a crucial liaison between the farmers, non-profits, the government, trade organizations and private companies.
According to the World Cocoa Foundation, STCP was responsible for improved cocoa production and greater environmental responsibility. The 24,000 farmers trained by STCP produced yields 15-40% greater than non-trained farmers while using 10-20% less pesticides. By 2004, farms benefiting from STCP-taught production and marketing skills sold crops for 15% more than previous years and earned 23-55% more.
With the support of regional and global government and trade organizations, STCP has launched local programs in Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria and Liberia. Together, these countries account for almost two-thirds of the world’s cocoa production. The programs’ three branches (technology, trade and child labor) give rise to activities like strengthening community-focused groups, disseminating technical information and intervening in child-labor situations. With their links to larger networks, such as the West Africa Cocoa Agricultural Project and the Canadian International Development Agency, the programs can strengthen their presence and receive additional funding.
Because over 50% of the foreign exchange in West Africa comes from cocoa alone, the health of the industry is essential to the economy’s stability. By providing farmers with insight on technological advances, improving their access to the world market and encouraging sustainability, the programs are able to effect change in some of the world’s most impoverished countries.
STCP directly assists the farmers, but we as consumers can support fair-trade, sustainable, ethical and socially responsible farming practices through our purchasing decisions. Choose fair-trade cocoa over major companies like Hershey’s and Nestlé, whose past price-fixing schemes indicate complete indifference.
The next time you desire a chocolate bar, or an occasion for chocolate birthday cake arises, consider the environmental and human implications beneath the creamy, delicious surface. Opt for the fair-trade brand to help sustain local farmers and the Earth.
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