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Feb 132012
 

By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

On Valentine’s Day, we think chocolate, and maybe roses, but, OK…mostly chocolate.

Sweet Earth's Fair Trade Valentine's Chocolate

Rich, sweet, velvety, dark, crunchy (or smooth) chocolate. Wonderful, comforting, dopamine-inducing chocolate.

Yet there’s a battle being fought for your chocolate heart; that is, your consumer loyalties.

While big chocolate producers try to win you over at every holiday with their latest confections, many smaller chocolate makers are increasingly visible on the scene with another proposition. They want you to consider buying quality Fair Trade chocolate because it helps sustain small, independent cocoa farmers in Central and South America, or in the  Ghana/Ivory Coast region of Africa where the majority of the world’s cocoa is farmed.

Can protein justify chocolate?

Fair Trade chocolate brands have been multiplying in recent years, partly in response to reports that African workers in non-Fair Trade cocoa fields are overworked and underpaid, and that some big plantations continue to use child labor, despite promises to stop. That has prompted local groups, the Ghanian government and Fair Trade advocates to set up alternative means of producing cocoa that better protect the workers.

The result on the consumer side has been a growing number of Fair Trade brands such as Equal Exchange, Alter Eco, Divine, Theo and Sweet Earth (bonus: those last two are made in the US), as well as brands that offer some Fair Trade products, such as Dagoba or Green&Black’s.

You can find these Fair Trade chocolates and cocoa mixes online, in boutiques, natural food markets and occasionally at mainstream stores.

Many Fair Trade brands are supplied by worker cooperatives, which must be run democratically, ecologically and transparently as part of the Fair Trade requirements. Equal Exchange chocolate and cocoa powder comes from a worker’s coop.

Divine Chocolate, which is supplied and partly owned by a farmer-owned coop in Ghana called Kuapa Kokoo, was among the earliest of the Fair Trade brands to emerge.

Kuapa Kokoo was organized in 1993 and thanks to the Internet, you can see how this worker-friendly co-op empowers small cocoa farmers and welcomes women into its leadership ranks.

The first video posted here features Francis Bediako-Manu, 51, who lives in Mem in the Mansu area. He is a grower with about 15 acres of cocoa trees that produce around 30 bags of beans annually. Here he explains why Kuapa Kokoo’s cocoa beans are “papapaa!” The second video (below) highlights how women help lead the project.

The Kuapa Kokoo co-op has helped communities build schools and water wells. It’s been especially good for women, who help run the cocoa operation and operate other small businesses that tide over their families between harvests.

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