Chocolate is on the minds (and in the tummies) of many around Halloween. This time of year offers a great opportunity to think about and look deeper into how chocolate is grown and produced. It’s not a delicious truth to digest, but the typical chocolate treats you buy at the store could very well have dark implications for farmers and ecosystems around the world.
Most of the world’s cocoa beans are grown in West Africa, Southeast Asia, Brazil and Ecuador. Cocoa is currently farmed on about 18 million acres of tropical land worldwide.
Cocoa plants thrive when shade-grown under a tree canopy, but many impoverished farmers clear-cut forest areas to create farmland in order to up production. This destroys ecosystems and wildlife habitats. Furthermore, according to the Rainforest Alliance, “this approach has short-term benefits on yields but is suitable only for hybrid plants that are increasingly replacing native cocoa. Unfortunately, these hybrid plants require the application of agrochemicals and grow in open fields, which leads to increased erosion and run-off—reducing soil fertility and contributing to water contamination and health problems.”
The good news is that many organizations, such as the Rainforest Alliance, are working with farmers worldwide to make the cocoa growing process more sustainable.
In fact, one great way to ensure that your chocolate was made with cocoa that was grown in a way that supports farmers and the environment is to buy Rainforest Alliance Certified™ chocolate. Just look for the green frog on labels.
For more about sustainable chocolate—and for other ideas about making your Halloween more eco-friendly this year—visit Green Your Halloween.
Photo by Fotolia/matka_Wariatka