FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Where Do Your Chocolate Hearts Come From?

by MARK SCHULLER

Valentine’s Day is around the corner. One of the ways in our consumer society we are encouraged to show our love is through buying chocolate. But is it true love on the other end?

Would it break our hearts to know that chocolate triggers civil war and trafficking in children?

A documentary film, Nothing Like Chocolateby UCSB Sociologist Kum-Kum Bhavnani, asks us these questions.

The film notes that at least 43 percent of the world’s chocolate supply comes from Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), documenting the violence behind its harvest, including civil war and thetrafficking of coerced child labor. The irony is not lost on many when considering the role that the transatlantic slave trade – servicing “the West’s” insatiable demand for sugar – played in the economy of what was to become the Ivory Coast.

Nothing Like Chocolate also notes the growing consolidation of the industry, where giant translational agribusiness corporations like Nestle or Hershey’s respond to challenge from the boutique industry by buying them up, such as Hershey’s acquiring Scharffenberger. (I should note that according to Richard Robbins’ The Culture of Global CapitalismM and M / Mars company is still family owned, and pay their workers a living wage.)

Not content to just providing a critique, a trap that we academics tend to fall into too often (myself included), Nothing Like Chocolate highlights an alternative in the Grenada Chocolate Company. According to the film’s website, “Within 5 years, the co-operative was producing 9 to 10 tons of local organic chocolate. Nothing Like Chocolate looks at this revolutionary experiment, focusing on how solar power, appropriate technology and activism merge to create a business whose values are fairness, community, sustainability and high quality.”

Nothing Like Chocolate profiles the co-founder of Grenada Chocolate Company, Mott Green, who died in a freak accident on June 1 of last year, and Nelice Stewart, a peasant producer who made her livelihood in the commodities trade before connecting with the Grenada Chocolate Company. Green and Stewart couldn’t be more different: the former a self-described radical anarchist from New York, and the latter a devout Pentacostal woman from rural Caribbean.

The film details the struggles and victories of this small, upstart company. When she signed with the Grenada Chocolate Company, Stewart more than doubled her income, which allowed her to buy her house. Green and his associates struggled to find a niche for the non-exploitative, 100% organic finished product. They aren’t certified Fair Trade – the film briefly discusses why, that this certification costs the producers and thus presents a barrier.

The film was screened in Grenada at last year’s Caribbean Studies Association, 30 years after the CIA-fomented coup ripped the country apart. Many in the mostly local audience were in tears at points in the film, which also touched upon this history of the 1983 U.S. invasion. The Cold War justification aside, a primary motivation for the Reagan administration was Prime Minister Maurice Bishop’s assertion of an autonomous economic model that reinforced local production. As other documentaries like Stephanie Black’s Life and Debt detail, the region’s economy was destroyed after independence (the British held onto their “crown colonies” until the 1960s) through what used to be called “structural adjustment programs.”

Now, the region’s economy is dominated by tourism, which Esther Figueroa and Diana McCaulay’s film Jamaica for Sale dramatically highlights is not sustainable either economically or environmentally. But such is the slot that we in the U.S. and other powerful countries have allowed the Caribbean to develop, in addition to cheap labor to sew our clothes.

Companies that dare to engage the world economy as equals, such as the Grenada Chocolate Company, where the “value added” trickles down and not up, provide hope for development in the Caribbean, whose leaders have formally called upon reparations for slavery. A policy of reparations aims at directly addressing the imbalance in wealth triggered by slavery by asking that the profits amassed by corporations (and, in the case of Anglophone Caribbean, the British Crown) be shared with the descendants of slaves. CSA keynote speaker Hilary Beckles’ new book Britain’s Black Debt details the case for reparation, building on Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa and Eric Williams’ Capitalism and Slavery.

Bhavnani, who just premiered her third feature-length documentary, Lutah, noted: “I started work on this film after reading an article about children being enslaved to harvest cocoa in West Africa. I teach about Third World issues, so I know the situation emerges from the complicated relationships among farmers, chocolate manufacturers and governments. Farmers receive a low price for their beans. In order to live even at subsistence level, they have to draw on a large pool of labor, which includes children who can be trafficked for this work. I felt more people ought to know about this and, equally importantly, that there are projects that show how things can be done differently.”

Alternatives like the Grenada Chocolate Company can provide hope for true development, and they represent true love, for humankind and a just future.

Mark Schuller is Assistant Professor of Anthropology and NGO Leadership and Development at Northern Illinois University and affiliate at the Faculté d’Ethnologie, l’Université d’Étatd’Haïti. Supported by the National Science Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, and others, Schuller’s research on globalization, NGOs, gender, and disasters in Haiti has been published in two dozen book chapters and peer-reviewed articles as well as public media. He is the author of Killing with Kindness: Haiti, International Aid, and NGOs (2012) and co-editor of three volumes, including Tectonic Shifts: Haiti Since the Earthquake (2012). He is co-director / co-producer of documentary Poto Mitan: Haitian Women, Pillars of the Global Economy (2009). Schuller is co-editor of Berghahn Books’ Catastrophes in Context: a Series in Engaged Social Science on Disasters, board chair of the Lambi Fund of Haiti, and active in several solidarity efforts.

 

 

Mark Schuller is Associate Professor of Anthropology and NGO Leadership and Development at Northern Illinois University and affiliate at the Faculté d’Ethnologie, l’Université d’État d’Haïti. He is the author or co-editor of six books, including forthcoming Humanitarian Aftershocks in Haiti. Schuller is co-director / co-producer of documentary Poto Mitan: Haitian Women, Pillars of the Global Economy (2009), and active in several solidarity efforts.

Weekend Edition
February 5-7, 2016
Jeffrey St. Clair
When Chivalry Fails: St. Bernard and the Machine
John Pilger
Freeing Julian Assange: the Final Chapter
Garry Leech
Terrifying Ted and His Ultra-Conservative Vision for America
Andrew Levine
Smash Clintonism: Why Democrats, Not Republicans, are the Problem
William Blum
Is Bernie Sanders a “Socialist”?
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
We Can’t Afford These Billionaires
Jonathan Cook
The Liberal Hounding of Julian Assange: From Alex Gibney to The Guardian
George Wuerthner
How the Bundy Gang Won
Mike Whitney
Peace Talks “Paused” After Putin’s Triumph in Aleppo 
Ted Rall
Hillary Clinton: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Gary Leupp
Is a “Socialist” Really Unelectable? The Potential Significance of the Sanders Campaign
Vijay Prashad
The Fault Line of Race in America
Eoin Higgins
Please Clap: the Jeb Bush Campaign Pre-Mortem
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
The Invisible Epidemic: Radiation and Rising Rates of Thyroid Cancer
Andre Vltchek
Europe is Built on Corpses and Plunder
Jack Smith
Obama Readies to Fight in Libya, Again
Robert Fantina
As Goes Iowa, So Goes the Nation?
Dean Baker
Market Turmoil, the Fed and the Presidential Election
John Wight
Who Was Cecil Rhodes?
David Macaray
Will There Ever Be Anyone Better Than Bernie Sanders?
Christopher Brauchli
Suffer Little Children: From Brazil to Flint
JP Sottile
Did Fox News Help the GOP Establishment Get Its Groove Back?
Binoy Kampmark
Legalizing Cruelties: the Australian High Court and Indefinite Offshore Detention
John Feffer
Wrestling With Iran
Rob Prince – Ibrahim Kazerooni
Syria Again
Louisa Willcox
Park Service Finally Stands Up for Grizzlies and Us
Farzana Versey
Of Beyoncé, Trudeau and Culture Predators
Pete Dolack
Fanaticism and Fantasy Drive Purported TPP ‘Benefits’
Murray Dobbin
Canada and the TPP
Steve Horn
Army of Lobbyists Push LNG Exports, Methane Hydrates, Coal in Senate Energy Bill
Colin Todhunter
“Lies, Lies and More Lies” – GMOs, Poisoned Agriculture and Toxic Rants
Franklin Lamb
ISIS Erasing Our Cultural Heritage in Syria
David Mihalyfy
#realacademicbios Deserve Real Reform
Graham Peebles
Unjust and Dysfunctional: Asylum in the UK
John Grant
Israel Moves to Check Its Artists
Yves Engler
On Unions and Class Struggle
Alfredo Lopez
The ‘Bern’ and the Internet
Missy Comley Beattie
Super Propaganda
Ed Rampell
Great Caesar’s Ghost!: A Specter Haunts Hollywood in the Coen’s Anti-Anti-Commie Goofball Comedy
Cesar Chelala
The Public Health Impact of Domestic Violence
Ron Jacobs
Cold Weather Comforts of a Certain Sort
Charles Komanoff
On the Passing of the Jefferson Airplane
Charles R. Larson
Can One Survive the Holocaust?
David Yearsley
Reading Room Blues
February 04, 2016
Scott McLarty
Political Revolution and the Third-Party Imperative
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail