Living the WELL Life


Choosing Chocolate for the Rainforest

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Whether you are following one of Christina's delicious baking recipes that calls for chocolate, or you are simply enjoying a scrumptious chocolate bar, you now have a great opportunity to help the rainforest. Next time you buy chocolate, try to choose brands that are made from sustainably sourced cocoa. Shade-grown, fair trade, organic, Rainforest Alliance Certified − these are the words a rainforest lover looks for when choosing this sweet.

The world loves chocolate, and that love for chocolate grows every year. For the past 100 years, world consumption has increased by 3 percent a year. Farmed throughout the tropics on more than 18 million acres of land, cocoa provides an income to roughly 40 million people, according to the World Cocoa Foundation. 

However, the way in which cocoa is cultivated makes a difference when it comes to impacting tropical rainforests and plantation workers. The best case scenario is when it's cultivated under the shade of native canopy trees, where a landscape similar to natural forest can be maintained. For hundreds of years, that's exactly how it was done. 

But to meet increasing world demand, new cocoa varieties have been introduced that grow in full sun. This practice involves clearing of rainforests and destruction of the native shaded habitat. This is the not-so-good scenario. While it does have short-term benefits on yields, it is suitable only for hybrid plants that are increasingly replacing native cocoa. These hybrid sun-grown varieties are extremely vulnerable to pests and disease, requiring the heavy application of agrochemicals. Farmers sometimes resort to using some of the most toxic pesticides, including lindane, a cousin of DDT, which poses health and environmental risks. Additionally, growing cocoa in open fields leads to increased erosion and runoff, soil fertility loss, water contamination and health problems.

The world's passion for all things cocoa has caused a fair share of tropical deforestation. West Africa, where roughly 70 percent of the world's cocoa is produced, has been hard hit. In Côte d'Ivoire, where the cocoa trade has boosted the country's economic development, the destruction of rainforest is now a national concern. In 1960, Côte d'Ivoire boasted 12 million hectares of rainforest. Yet today, just 50 years later, roughly 2.6 million hectares remain! Cocoa plantations have contributed to nearly 14 percent of the deforestation in the country. Neighboring cocoa-producing countries have similar stories of deforestation.

Yet, it's not just the trees—cocoa cultivation is rampant with social issues. Smallholder farmers lack access to viable markets and are limited to selling their cocoa to middlemen for only a portion of its value, keeping them in a cycle of poverty. What's worse, cultivating a sun-grown cocoa monoculture makes farmers extremely vulnerable to price fluctuations in the market. The average cocoa worker makes barely enough to meet the most basic living needs. The trade is fraught with labor abuses, particularly in West Africa, where forced child and slave labor exist. Yes, slave labor in the 21st century! And despite the Harkin-Engel Protocol, an agreement that major chocolate manufacturers signed in 2001 committing to eradicating such labor abuses in their supply chain, not enough has changed, according to the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF).

Shade-grown cocoa is the best for tropical ecosystems. It ensures that forests are minimally affected (and certainly not cut down!). Shade-grown cocoa inadvertently helps protect the habitat of threatened plant and animal species, natural pollinators and predators of cocoa pests while creating a wildlife corridor that further sustains the diverse plant and animal life of the rainforest ecosystem. While the big chocolate manufacturers cannot get the enormous amount of cocoa they require from purely shade-grown farms, smaller manufacturers can.
Fair trade ensures fair pay and working conditions. This is very important when it comes to cocoa cultivation. 
Organic, of course, ensures that no pesticides are used—keeping dangerous chemicals from entering the delicate tropical ecoystems where cocoa is grown and creating safer working environments. 

These are some terrific "smaller" brands that offer shade-grown, organic and/or fair trade chocolate. Some of them are also Rainforest Alliance Certified (explained below), which is an added bonus. You will find these brands, and many more, at Whole Foods Market, health food stores, and some supermarkets. 
 
Allegro Whole Trade Drinking Chocolate Costa Rican 64 (Available at Whole Foods Markets only) 
Camino
Dagoba Organic Chocolate (Dagoba offers baking chocolate and cocoa powder!) 
Endangered Species Chocolate
Green & Black's
Kallari Chocolate  
Newman's Own Organics
Rapunzel Organic Fair Trade Foods
Shaman Organic Chocolates
SunSpire (Check out their grain-sweetened and organic chocolate chips!)
Theo Chocolate

Some of the largest chocolate manufacturers in the world are now taking steps to source cocoa from farms with improved practices and they have partnered with the Rainforest Alliance to move toward a more sustainable supply chain. The Rainforest Alliance works with the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN). Its detailed criteria ensures that ecosystems are protected, employment is properly managed, and living conditions are healthy. 

When purchasing conventional candy bars, support the big manufacturers that carry the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal. In the United Kingdom, the Mars Galaxy chocolate bar now bears the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal; in Europe, Kraft's Côte d'Or features; in Sweden, Denmark and Finland, chocolate lovers can find the seal on the Marabou brand; and in Austria and Switzerland, on the Suchard brand. Eating chocolate and helping tropical rainforests at the same time—simple and sweet. 

Resources
Allegro Whole Trade Drinking Chocolate Costa Rican 64
www.allegrocoffee.com/drinking-chocolate/#costa-rican-64.com

Camino
www.cocoacamino.com

Dagoba Organic Chocolate
www.dagobachocolate.com

Endangered Species Chocolate
www.chocolatebar.com

Green & Black's
U.S: www.greenandblacks.com/us/
U.K.: www.greenandblacksdirect.com

Kallari Chocolate
www.kallarichocolate.com 

Newman's Own Organics
www.newmansownorganics.com

Rapunzel Organic 
Fair Trade Foods
www.internaturalfoods.com/brands/rapunzel-organic-fair-trade-foods.html

Rainforest Alliance
www.rainforestalliance.org

Shaman Organic Chocolates
www.shamanchocolates.com

SunSpire
www.sunspire.com

Theo Chocolate
www.theochocolate.com


 



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