A field work meeting in West Africa. (Photo courtesy of the University of Victoria)

A field work meeting in West Africa. (Photo courtesy of the University of Victoria)

Future of chocolate could be grim, says Victoria-based expert

UVic geographer looks to raise awareness about sustainability of chocolate

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, many are thinking of chocolate – or at least they will be very soon.

But new research by University of Victoria geographer Sophia Carodenuto poses some questions about the sustainability of this beloved treat.

“Raising consumer awareness of chocolate’s origins, the deforestation it may be causing, and the poverty-stricken cocoa farmers is a priority,” Carodenuto said.

She has been working with government agencies and cocoa farmers since 2012 to identify options for improving the sustainability of cocoa in three African countries, where an estimated two million farmers produce approximately three-quarters of the world’s cocoa.

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She published a paper Tuesday, Jan. 29, providing specific recommendations for the future of cocoa farming amidst the pressures of climate change, soil erosion and deforestation.

But the business of chocolate is shifting, two years ago 12 of the world’s leading cocoa and chocolate companies made a collective public commitment to end the deforestation associated with cocoa. Carodenuto’s paper examines this emerging pledge and looks at its impacts on farmers, domestic political policies and poverty.

“If we know where the cocoa beans originated, we will know if the cocoa farm is committed to zero-deforestation practices,” explained Carodenuto, noting measurement and monitoring of impacts requires supply chain traceability.

READ ALSO: Breakthrough in brain health thanks to UVic researchers

“As it stands, there are no publicly available maps of West Africa’s cocoa farms,” she added. “And there is a long way to go in the struggle towards deforestation-free cocoa and chocolate. We need to think beyond niche labels such as Fair Trade to address the sustainability of mass-produced chocolate in our cereals and cheap chocolate bars.”

She pointed to a lack of basic labelling indicating the origins of cocoa in most store-bought chocolate bars and boxes of chocolate and the lack of a significant campaign that would draw public attention to the issues.

Carodenuto outlines a number of recommendations to help cocoa farmers, governments and businesses work together toward sustainable production.


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