Social Issues with Major Cocoa Production

Over two-thirds of the world’s cocoa is grown in West Africa, where farmers with small plots of land depend upon the crop as their main source of income. It sends their kids to school, feeds and clothes their whole family, and pays for any medical expenses. Not all cocoa is intensely farmed like this; craft chocolate makers (LINK) purposefully source cacao farmed with sustainably, quality, and farmer livelihood in mind. But in some West African countries, the majority of households depend primarily upon income from cocoa production. So when that income is insufficient, issues such as child-aged & forced labor, and loss of education can arise.

As farmers age and these issues remain, the question of who will take over these farms continues. While it’s difficult to separate issues of sustainability and ethics from social issues, these are the human-centric issues arising from our global obsession with chocolate.

Child Labor & Slave Labor on Cocoa Farms

Intensely-farmed cacao requires lots of labor to upkeep trees and harvest the pods, and then remove the seeds and process them. When a farmer doesn’t have enough money to pay a worker, often the burden to help with harvest falls upon the other family members, including children. While helping out on the farm every once in awhile is not an issue, some families come to rely upon their children as a source of labor, taking them away from school. For families which aren’t able to pay school fees for all of their children, sometimes it becomes a choice of which kids will attend school, if any.

On the flip side, some families are so impoverished that they must send their children away to earn an income and meals. This has resulted in some children, and adults, being smuggled across the border to work on isolated cacao farms. Sometimes these laborers aren’t fed until they’ve met a daily quota, much less paid. Rising costs of maintaining a farm further exacerbates the issue, and reinforces the idea that the best way to get out of poverty is to get out of cocoa.

Ageing Cocoa Farmers

While farmers currently practicing intensive cacao cultivation will likely never leave the industry, their children are less likely than ever to want to take it over. Most cocoa farmers in West Africa are over the age of 50. With the instability of prices, and often compulsory sale through the government, whole communities can become impoverished overnight if the world market price drops (and the government price with it).

One way experts have come up with to combat this issue is to increase and stabilize market prices so that farmers don’t have to rely upon loan sharks to cover that month’s expenses, or even stop taking care of their farm to seek other work. When farmers’ share of global revenue from cocoa increases, so does their quality of life and their ability to produce more and higher quality cacao.

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What makes Bar & Cocoa different?

At Bar & Cocoa, we're not just another chocolate shop; we're a chocolate experience. We meticulously curate a selection of the finest chocolates from artisanal makers around the globe. Our focus is on quality, ethical sourcing, and sustainability. We go the extra mile to educate our customers about the complexities of cacao cultivation and chocolate making through detailed product descriptions, flavor profiles, and origin stories. When you shop with us, you're not just indulging in a treat; you're becoming part of a community that values the art and science of chocolate making.

What is bean to bar chocolate?

Bean to bar chocolate is chocolate that is made from scratch by the same producer, starting from the raw cacao beans and ending with the finished chocolate bars and treats. This process allows the chocolate maker to control every aspect of the chocolate making, such as roasting, grinding, conching, tempering, and molding. Bean to bar chocolate is often more flavorful, nuanced, and ethical than mass-produced chocolate. It reflects the artistry and craftsmanship of the maker and the quality and origin of the cacao.

How do you source your chocolate? Is it ethical and sustainable?

We source our chocolate from award winning craft makers who use high-quality cacao beans and go beyond fair trade. We work with over 50 fine chocolate makers from around the world who share our values and passion for real chocolate. Some of the countries we source our chocolate from include Peru, Vietnam, Brazil, Colombia, Nicaragua,, Philippines, India, and many more. We are always on the lookout for new and exciting origins and makers to add to our collection.

Do you have vegan, or keto-friendly or soy free chocolate?

Yes, we do! We have a variety of chocolate options that cater to different dietary preferences and needs. You can browse our collections of organic chocolate, vegan chocolate, keto-friendly chocolate, sugar-free chocolate, dairy-free chocolate, gluten-free chocolate, soy-free chocolate, nut-free chocolate, and more on our website. We also provide detailed information on each product page about the ingredients and allergens of each product.

How do you pick your chocolate makers?

When it comes to selecting our chocolate offerings, we're basically the chocolate sommeliers you never knew you needed. Our process starts with rigorous research and tastings. Yeah, it's a tough job, but someone's gotta do it. We scour the globe for artisanal and craft chocolate makers who share our commitment to quality, ethical sourcing, and innovation in flavor.

We scrutinize everything from cacao origin to production methods and flavor profiles. Only the best of the best make it into our curated collection, offering you a world-class chocolate experience in every bite. Each bar has a story, a unique flavor profile, and the power to transport you to a different part of the globe. We're not just selling chocolate; we're offering an edible journey.