The Chocolate Life

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Making the World Better Through Chocolate is an article that appeared on BusinessWeek.com on February 8th. In addition to my being quoted, other sources include Frederick Schilling of Dagoba and Steve DeVries.

From the article, "Dagoba's Schilling, who is also on the forefront of the fair-trade movement, admits the certification process is complex, and even precarious at times. "You can't just have one system that applies to every situation," Schilling says. "But if you go back to the most important question: Are things happening for the better? Definitely."

"To satisfy your sweet tooth as well as your conscience, it may be simpler to follow DeVries' advice: "Buy the best-tasting chocolate you can," he says. "Chocolate that tastes good has to be well grown, and that means the whole production chain is good.""

One blogger responds with, " ... My commentary: Stop trying to green everything! Or rather, green all you want, but leave chocolate alone. Ask yourselves this: Is a rain forest-laden world worth it if we must give up chocolate?"

What are your thoughts?

Tags: dagoba, fair trade, frederick schilling, organic, steve devries

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I think many folks are using organic as a substitute for fair trade or slave free, as they figure that the certification and oversight would probably include the other two. I do agree that better chocolate usually means that the cocoa buyers are more intimately involved with their growers.

The interesting thing is that cocoa that's grown sustainably may actually be good for the rain forests' position as an economic boom for tropical countries. If planted correctly a forest can have many cash crops within the canopy. That diversity lowers the need for pesticides and encourages the natural balance of animals & other flora. (Monoculture is just bad practice, especially with a plant like cocoa that has so many natural enemies.)

I'd love to see more of the education programs expand that not only help the farmers understand how to apply pesticides if they need to use them, plant, harvest and dry/ferment but also to encourage their children attend school so that they can learn more about the interconnectedness of their product to the rest of the world. Education is the key to helping farmers out of this cycle.

However, sometimes I wonder if some of this stuff that we hear isn't just marketing. I'm rather jaded.
There was a great article in the February-March issue of Plenty Magazine on ethically traded cacao. The article is titled Sweet Satisfaction and is available on Plenty's website (read it here). It talks about how some artisanal chocolatiers are sourcing their beans themselves and using fair trade practices in order to allow cacao farmers to provide a better life for their families and invest more money in their farms.

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