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The Bitterness of Chocolate

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The Bitterness of Chocolate

By Max Darcey, Navitas Organics Director of Sustainability & Quality

Reviewed by Meg Adelman, RN, BSN, MPH, Navitas Organics Co-Founder

'Tis the season for chocolate! Be it for a warm cup of cocoa or other holiday treats, chocolate sales are a dominant force from October to February. But as sweet and delicious as chocolate can be (“Food of Gods” is the direct Latin translation), it’s important to recognize that it doesn’t always have sweet beginnings. Chocolate production is part of a $100 billion industry that, historically and presently, has been fraught with injustice and inequality. Most cacao farmers earn less than $1 dollar a day and many experience extremely poor working conditions. To make matters worse, this industry that creates so many fond memories of childhood euphoria is the same industry that has been propped up by a history of child and slave labor. In Ghana and Ivory Coast alone, where 70% of the world’s chocolate is grown, some 1.5 million children work in the production of cacao. And here in the United States, in recent news the U.S. Supreme Court is currently hearing a case filed by previous child laborers against some of the largest chocolate companies in the world.

It is also critical that we address the environmental concerns of cacao farming, such as deforestation. The Seattle Times published an article in November 2019 that highlighted the devastating effects the cacao industry has had on rainforest of the Ivory Coast and Ghana. Estimates showed that 80% of the forest in Ivory Cost over the last 50 years have been lost, a significant amount of which is due to the expansion of cacao farming. While we all want to continue to enjoy chocolate and the goodness it brings, it’s important that we begin to recognize the injustices of its supply chain and come together to advocate for change.

Loren Cardeli, the founder of A Growing Culture and a dear friend and partner of Navitas Organics said recently, “our relationship with the environment is a reflection of our relationship which each other, as long as there’s exploitation there will be extraction.” Together, we must work to create a food system that's not centered around profit, but rather one that prioritizes human rights and the environment.

Sierra Leone Cacao Project

Here at Navitas, we are always working toward positive change, and to ensure that our intentions are fulfilled, we’ve created Superfoods with Purpose, a manifesto of sorts that is the basis for our business, our work and our principles. Agriculture is the foundation for a healthy society, and that’s why we’re committed to partnering with smallholder farms to help strengthen local economies and communities in regions where we do business. Every purchase of our ethically sourced, organically grown superfoods supports our growers and the innovations of small-scale farmers across the globe.

The Sierra Leone Cacao Project is our commitment to a brighter future for our cacao growers and a superior source for cacao. Our cacao is certified organic, fair trade and comes from the south western corner of Sierra Leone, an area surrounded by the lush Gola National Rainforest. Our work with The Liloma Cocoa Cooperative aims to support local agricultural communities through the development of integrated, inclusive and restorative organic farming that delivers high-quality products and generates rural economic growth while protecting the environment. We are proud of the impact we are helping to foster in this region and hope to set an example of the importance of investing in the farmers and their communities at large.

Moving Forward

We can’t do this alone, and we acknowledge that our involvement is only a small component of a much larger global movement. We are constantly inspired by the amazing work of so many farming communities and cooperatives, organizations, and advocates fighting for food justice. Consumers play a critical role, too, in demanding business and government accountability.

We commit to taking the time to listen to the voices of the people – the workers, the farmers, the communities – and to help support and empower them in our collective quest for change. Our farmers are not just producers, they are our partners, and without them, Navitas Organics would not be who we are today.

"The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything."

– Albert Einstein