Trending
MOST READ
Beaches Be Trippin\': Five Texas Coast Spots Worth the Drive

Beaches Be Trippin': Five Texas Coast Spots Worth the Drive

Arts & Culture: Let’s face it, most of us Lone Stars view the Texas coast as a poor man’s Waikiki. Hell, maybe just a poor man’s Panama Beach — only to be used... By Callie Enlow 7/10/2013
What to Know Before You Go On A Cleanse

What to Know Before You Go On A Cleanse

Food & Drink: It’s been a year since I’ve taken up this gig of eating and drinking across San Antonio. Since then, no fewer than seven juice shops have opened in the area... By Jessica Elizarraras 8/20/2014
Big Hops Gastropub Brings Beer-centric Eats to the Northside

Big Hops Gastropub Brings Beer-centric Eats to the Northside

Food & Drink: On a recent Sunday, my wife and I drove up 281 and into the heart of San Antonio’s ever-expanding Northside suburbs to try out... By Lance Higdon 8/20/2014
SA’s Gritty PuroSlam is Feared, Respected in National Slam Poetry Scene

SA’s Gritty PuroSlam is Feared, Respected in National Slam Poetry Scene

Arts & Culture: See, there is this place where people participate in a ritual derived from the verbal tradition of telling and retelling stories to a room of bodies... By Melanie Robinson 8/20/2014
Brendan Gleeson Carries Pitch-black ‘Calvary,’ Weighed Down by the Rest

Brendan Gleeson Carries Pitch-black ‘Calvary,’ Weighed Down by the Rest

Screens: Father James (Brendan Gleeson) sits in a confessional, waiting. An unseen man enters the box and says, “The first time I tasted semen, I was seven... By David Riedel 8/20/2014
Calendar

Search hundreds of restaurants in our database.

Search hundreds of clubs in our database.

Follow us on Instagram @sacurrent

Print Email

Food & Drink

Hershey's, West African child labor, and the promise of Brazil's 'cabruca' system

Photo: Courtesy photo, License: N/A

Courtesy photo

Slave-free chocolate from Posh Chocolat.


Valentine's Day is the chocolate industry's holiday season. With an eye toward this February's annual love-fest, the International Labor Rights Forum purchased an advertising slot on a jumbotron outside the Super Bowl's Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on which to broadcast a video called Hershey's Chocolate, Kissed by Child Labor.

Africa produces 70 percent of the world's cocoa — much of it with the region's infamously cheap labor. "In West Africa, where Hershey's sources much of its cocoa, over 200,000 children are forced to harvest cocoa beans every year," said Judy Gearhart, executive director of the International Labor Rights Forum, via a press release.

On the day the Super Bowl ad was announced, Hershey's released a statement detailing steps it would take toward improving labor and sustainability practices, including a $10 million investment in its West African suppliers. That was enough to buy the company a temporary reprieve from the ILRF.

"Hershey's pledged to take the first step to address rampant forced and child labor in its supply chain," said Sean Rudolph, ILRF's campaigns director, "so we decided to pull the ad as a gesture of good faith."

The scuffle highlights the dark side of a food that, like love, can be bitter or sweet. In addition to labor issues, chocolate plantations can be responsible for deforestation, when growers raze rainforest to plant more cocoa trees.

But chocolate production can also be empowering to farmers and relatively healthy for the environment. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to visit some cocoa producers in Brazil that demonstrate the potential of chocolate to create positive change.

Like coffee, chocolate trees can be grown beneath the forest canopy instead of replacing it. In the Atlantic Rainforest of Brazil this cultivation strategy is called cabruca. Also sometimes called "chocolate rainforests," cabrucas are composed of shade-tolerant cacao trees grown under a forest canopy. Leaf litter is allowed to build up on the forest floor, and a diverse ecosystem of plants and insects develops. Cabrucas can include other cash crops like rubber trees, cassava, and banana, papaya, and other fruit trees.

The cabrucas I visited are a far cry from the monoculture-style chocolate plantations that dominate the chocolate industry. Many such plantations have failed in recent years thanks to nutrient depletion and the spread of a plant disease called Witch's Broom. The cabrucas have shown dramatically more resistance to these problems. One grower I visited, a Swiss expat named Ernst Goetsch, has made good business of buying depleted and abandoned chocolate monoculture plantations and converting them into vibrant cabrucas. He's managed to employ a lot of local people and restore value to previously worthless land, while producing a lot of chocolate.

In addition to the environmental benefits, the cabruca system offers a solution to the labor problems often associated with chocolate. The cacao plant is extremely responsive to tender loving care like pruning, mulching and amendments with compost. On a small scale, given lots of love, cocoa yields can more than double. This makes it a viable cash crop for small landholders, especially when you consider the other valuable crops grown alongside the chocolate plants.

We welcome user discussion on our site, under the following guidelines:

To comment you must first create a profile and sign-in with a verified DISQUS account or social network ID. Sign up here.

Comments in violation of the rules will be denied, and repeat violators will be banned. Please help police the community by flagging offensive comments for our moderators to review. By posting a comment, you agree to our full terms and conditions. Click here to read terms and conditions.
comments powered by Disqus