Thursday, March 1, 2012

Thirsty Thursdays: Next Gen Cocoa Farmers

Yesterday marked the last day of what could be considered chocolate month - pre- and post-Valentine's Day celebratory edibles. But as a recent Huffington Post article emphasized, we should not take cheap chocolate treats for granted. Cocoa is portrayed a small-scale farm crop, grown in tropical regions, primarily in Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire. While I agree with the author (who happens to be Mars Co.'s VP of global supply chains and sustainability) that more resources need to go into supporting these farmers, I am not sure how I feel about the notion that technology and research will save the day.

Moreover, cocoa is referred to as an "orphan crop" because it does not receive the massive amounts of resources that go into wheat, rice, maize, and soy research. However, that phrase tends to evoke an image of staple food crops, like millet or sorghum, and not a commodity crop of which nearly all goes to Industrialized nations. Perhaps, instead of trying to expand this wanton consumption, more emphasis should be placed on making production as sustainable as possible, with fair wages, and good quality of life for the farmers. Price would go up, and people would have to adjust to buying less at a higher price. That would be a pretty poor business model to try to sell less of a product, but chocolate is inherently a luxury food, right?

Cacao has great potential for sustainable production - it is by nature a forest crop part of a biodiverse system and multi-story canopy. It also faces severe threats from climate change and forest degradation. Organizations, such as the World Cocoa Foundation, are working towards more equitable and environmentally sound cacao production.

This is Thirsty Thursday, so I will sneak in a recipe to perk up just about anyone on a cold (or not so cold...) winter day:

Hot Cocoa for One
1 cup plain almond milk
1 tbs cocoa powder
15 g good, dark chocolate
10 drops vanilla stevia (or 1 tbs agave)
1/2 tsp vanilla (optional)
1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional)

1. Mix almond milk and cocoa together. Heat mixture in a sauce pace over medium heat until warm. Add dark chocolate, stirring until melted/
2, Add stevia, vanilla, and cinnamon. Bring to desired temperature. Enjoy!

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