Guest essay by Eric Worrall
The Chocolate Climate Worriers have switched tactics, from claiming that climate is going to kill all the cocoa plants, to claiming we should feel guilty about wanting chocolate in the first place.
New Research Suggests Cocoa Trade Fueling Climate Change
Is your chocolate bar damaging the environment?
17/09/2017 8:07 AM AEST
LONDON, Sept 14 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Your afternoon chocolate bar may be fueling climate change, destroying protected forests and threatening elephants, chimpanzees and hippos in West Africa, research suggests.
Well-known brands, such as Mars and Nestle, are buying through global traders cocoa that is grown illegally in dwindling national parks and reserves in Ivory Coast and Ghana, environmental group Mighty Earth said.
“Every consumer of chocolate is a part of either the problem or the solution,” Etelle Higonnet, campaign director at Mighty Earth, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“You can choose to buy ethical chocolate. Or you’re voting with your dollar for deforestation.”
Mars and Nestle told the Thomson Reuters Foundation they are working to tackle deforestation.
“We take a responsible approach to sourcing cocoa and have committed to source 100 percent certified sustainable cocoa by 2020,” Mars said in an email.
Ivory Coast, Francophone West Africa’s biggest economy, is the world’s top cocoa grower.
While the bulk of its 1 million cocoa farmers ply their trade legally, Washington-based Mighty Earth estimates about a third of cocoa is grown illegally in protected areas.
The new chocolate furore seems to be based on a document published by a Washington think tank called “Mighty Earth”.
… The investigation found that illegal deforestation for cocoa is an open secret throughout the entire chocolate supply chain. The process of deforestation for cocoa starts with settlers who invade parks and other forested areas. These settlers then progressively clear the underbrush of forests by cutting down or burning existing trees. The photos presented here document how this unsustainable form of cocoa production leaves behind what are known as skeleton forests: trunks denuded of their crowns and leaves that remain in the cocoa monocultures as ghostly reminders of the great forests that once reigned.
With the forests gone, the settlers then plant cocoa trees, which take years before they are ready for harvest. Each cocoa tree bears two harvests of cocoa pods per year. When cocoa is ready to be harvested, farmers hack o the ripe cocoa pods from the trees with machetes. They split open the pods to remove the cocoa beans, which they then sort through and place into piles. The beans are left in the sun to ferment and dry; this is when the beans turn brown.
It is at this point that a first level of middlemen called “pisteurs” buy the cocoa beans from the settlers, transport it to villages and towns across the cocoa-growing region, and sell them onto another set of middlemen, known as cooperatives. The cooperatives then either directly or through a third set of middlemen bring the cocoa to the coastal ports of San Pedro and Abidjan, where it is sold to Olam, Cargill, and Barry Callebaut, who ship the cocoa to chocolate companies in Europe and North America.
Throughout this path, the illegal origin of the cocoa is apparent. We visited entire illegal towns and villages called ‘campements’ that have sprung up inside Ivory Coast’s national parks and protected forests. Even though these settlements are within protected areas, some boast tens of thousands of residents, along with public schools, social health centers, mosques, churches, stores, and occasionally cell phone towers, in plain sight of government authorities. Pisteurs openly admitted to us that they bought cocoa from inside national parks and protected forests. Owners of cooperatives within the illegal towns spoke openly about sourcing cocoa from protected areas as well. …
What happened when what passes for the Ivory Coast government was pressured into taking action?
… The government of Ivory Coast took action recently against cocoa-driven deforestation by expelling cocoa farmers from Mount Péko National Park (which means “mountain of hyenas” in the local Gueré language). According to a report by Human Rights Watch and the Ivorian Coalition of Human Rights (RAIDH), the evictions were poorly planned and carried out in violation of human rights standards. When we visited Mount Péko after the eviction, we found the park once again filled with cocoa smallholders who had returned. Some smallholders explained to us that when they finally returned to Mount Péko, they simply paid the authorities higher bribes to go back to cultivating their lands in the park. …
Read more: Same link as above
My sympathy is with the illegal farmers. The political situation is horrendous, the report mentions the investigators were prevented from inspecting some regions because of an outbreak of fighting between government forces and rebels. Yet rather than jumping on a boat and becoming part of the global refugee problem, or growing drugs, those “illegal farmers” are trying to make the best of their miserable situation by cultivating cocoa.
We should be giving the farmers a break; but green obsessed Westerners are stirring up trouble for these unfortunates, drawing the attention of corrupt Ivory Coast authorities to a pile of money they haven’t stolen yet, trying to stir up climate controversy against their product, and complaining that these desperately poor farmers should be more sensitive to the environment.
For shame. Let these farmers get on with their lives, with their courageous efforts to make a decent living, to create safety and security for their families in the midst of nightmare circumstances the like of which few of us will ever have to endure.