Theobroma Cacao also called cacao tree or cocoa tree. It's native to the tropical forests of Mesoamerica. The cocoa Bean is also called cacao bean. The bean is the seed from the cocoa tree which is the base material for chocolate products. Liquor from processed beans are used to make cocoa powder and chocolate powder. Chocolate is made of cocoa solids and cocoa butter, where as, Cocoa powder has very little cocoa butter and more of cocoa solids. In other words, cocoa powder is minus the cocoa butter.
Now how can chocolate be sustainable is what we shall talk about here. Few years ago big players in the chocolate sector came under the radar, for buying Cocoa from various countries at very low prices and selling it for very high price in the global market. Hence it was unethical, as well as Cocoa was supplied from places where there were human right violations, child labour and environment pollution. Not anymore, these same players are now protecting this sector, hence sustainable chocolate.
Sustainable chocolate in other terms mean , sustainable and ethical cocoa chain. I would like to bring to light that, a couple of years ago there were many cocoa farmers in various parts of Africa who did not even know what their cocoa was used for. They were not aware that the cocoa grown in their plantations were sold for such high prices in the market, in the form of chocolates and other cocoa items. Some farmers had not heard the word chocolate, nor knew how it tastes. Though now the scenario has changed. Many people are traveling nowadays and are having exposure in the international market, and hence are very well aware of the latest happenings in the chocolate sector. The governments too play a very big role imposing various types of rules and regulations, thus making cocoa production ethical.
There are many sustainable chocolate programmes put in place by various companies and organizations. These programmes include social responsibility, protection of human rights and environment, getting cocoa farmers acquainted with agricultural practices that help in good cocoa growth. The programme also involves bringing farmers and chocolate manufacturers together, along with following fair trade and ethical labour practises. The Chocolate companies produce sustainable chocolates based on the 3 pillars of sustainable development, which are framed to take care of the environment, society and economy.
to see that they reduce deforestation, stop the use of toxic herbicites and pesticides and prevent soil erosion
farmers are given training to help them with better yields from their plantations along with fair labour practices also prohibiting child labour.
to create a win win proposition to every participant in the supply chain
With these types of practices in place we see that cocoa farmers have a good quality of life and as well as improve the communities they live in.
When most people complain of Sustainability and ethicality in the chocolate industry, it is not just what we have talked of so far, but more. In most places such as Indonesia, farmers own small pockets of land, and in order to increase the production they have to grow new plants and cut down the old trees. The problem is that these farmers cannot do it since they depend on these trees and to buy large pieces of land they require finance, which they don't have. Apart from that, due to the demand in the chocolate industry many try to move away from their local food agriculture and try with cocoa plantation. Without the knowledge of cocoa cultivation such as the type of soil, fertilizers required and more it becomes a disaster. In this case farmers need to be educated. We cannot blame this as non sustainability as it is the farmers choice and the governments orders that play a role here. Cocoa production actually on its own does not do any environmental harm. It is practices that are not managed properly that leads to wide spread soil erosion and ultimately leading to deforestation for new plantations. When the soil erodes the land becomes less fertile and yields decrease, hence, soil conservation by terracing and mulching, pruning and using shade from other crops will be useful in getting better yields. Nowadays cocoa farmers use shade as without shade, soil erosion is higher and apart from that cocoa needs more fertilizers. Many cocoa plantations that dont use shade or terracing, use molasses and this is what needs to be changed. That's where companies play a role by training the farmers, teaching them the techniques, in order to save our environment and planet. Through sustainable farming methods, the plant and people benefit by improved farm productivity. The conventional farming methods can damage the environment.
The chocolate industry is controlled by many sustainable programs involving governments, industries and NGOs working together. There are several independent certification bodies which do on-site inspections and allow chocolate producers to use their logos on product pages such as : Rainforest Alliance™, Fairtrade international ®, UTZ certified™
A system similar to block chain is followed, where the beans can be traced back to the farmer or the supplier who sold the beans. Each bag of fermented and dried beans receives a tag with this information. The traceability of sustainable chocolate has positively impacted countries where cocoa is grown such as Africa, South America, Central America and Vietnam.
CocoaAction is a voluntary strategy that aligns the worlds leading cocoa and chocolate companies, origin governments, and key stake holders on regional priority issues in cocoa sustainability. The World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) as mentioned in their website " is a non-profit international membership organization whose vision is a thriving and sustainable cocoa sector, where farmers prosper, communities are empowered and the planet is healthy."Among the WCF's members are farm-level input providers, financial institutions, cocoa processors, chocolate makers and manufacturer, farmer co operatives, cocoa trading companies, ports, warehousing companies and retailers.
Some of the leading members of WCF are : Bourbon, Mondelez, Ferraro ,Godiva, Hershey, Nestle and many more. For those interested in becoming a member of this foundation can check for more details on the World Cocoa Foundation website.