As we drove along the red dirt road my colleague pointed out the window "that's all cocoa." I stared into the forest not understanding, it didn't smell like the sweet scent of the Hershey factory I remembered as a kid driving through Smith Falls, Ontario. An unassuming farm appeared through the trees, we parked along the piles of ripening cocoa pods, remnants of the days harvest. We walked past the plywood bins where beans were fermented and the bamboo boards used for drying them afterwards and walked on to the nursery. A worker handed me an opened pod she was taking beans from to plant into plastic bags of soil, "eat it" she told me. I popped the fresh bean, coated in thick, creamy-white membrane into my mouth. It also tasted nothing like chocolate and I spat it out after a few chews, the purple contents sour and definitely an acquired taste.
|Ripe Cocoa Pod|
The Spanish first discovered a hot cocoa beverage mixed with local herbs and spices being drunk by the Inca and Aztecs in South America. Chiefs and Kings drank the liquid drink as a tonic, an aphrodisiac and supposed male enhancement tool. When they brought cocoa to Europe it was an instant sensation and the popularity of chocolate has been ever increasing. Since Cocoa trees were introduced to Africa in the 17th century, production exploded and rich European land owners were the main benefactors. The plantations they ran were worked by minimally paid and enslaved workers, a bitter taste in the history or a sweet treat. Cote D'Ivoire and Ghana are now the worlds largest producers together growing more than half of all the cocoa the world consumes.
Climate change is a also a threat to future cocoa production as the beans can only grow in a narrow corridor around the equator. The crop remains vulnerable to the expected effects of global warming and the increase of drought and pests. If temperatures continue to rise and vary, the crop may become inviable which means, no more chocolate for anyone. As it is mainly exported (for little return to the farmer) if the market were to crash a farmer could live off of the cash crop and instead would need to supplement with other crops and income streams to survive.