From This Month's Editor


The cocoa chain

DOING an issue where you visit the other side of the world in order to get the story is largely dependent on the kindness of strangers. Without support from people in Ghana, who have little obvious reason to give it, this magazine about the journey from cocoa to chocolate would not have been possible. It's not just a question of solidarity, although a common sense of struggle for justice is a good start; it is also the basic decency and openness of Ghanaians and their willingness to share of themselves.

One of the frustrations of this kind of work is that one never gets the opportunity to say a simple 'thank you', because so many are called for. So the 'thank you' has to be the magazine itself and whether it gets to grips with people's lives on the cocoa chain, with what is important to them. I would like to thank especially Twin Trading and Green and Black's for their contacts and insight. I would also like to thank the people at the Canadian NGO CUSO office in Accra for easing my way into Ghanaian life.

[image, unknown] This issue on chocolate is the first issue I have ever written entirely by myself. Oddly I have never been a big fan of chocolate. Some things you like, others you don't, I figured. But preparing this issue of the NI has changed my mind. It turns out that my experience of chocolate - milky, sugary candy bars, often with gooey centres of some unspecified substance - had very little chocolate in it. If, that is, by 'chocolate' you mean something largely derived from cocoa - the essential raw material, after all, that defines what chocolate is. In the course of working on this issue I got to pay attention to the real thing - Golden Tree in Ghana, fair-traded Green and Black's in Britain, special Mexican powder for making drinks and a range of other fair-traded products, most with a cocoa content high above that of the leading brand bars pushed by the big chocolate companies. I gradually began to develop a taste for it, despite myself. The rich chocolate taste dominates, not the cloying sweetness or some other artificial variant. While I probably don't yet qualify as a chocoholic - despite an addictive personality - it is safe to say that I have become a chocolate snob.

The indifference with which I once passed candy counters has now changed to a self-righteous sneering. I look down my nose, occasionally stopping to scoff at the pathetic amount of cocoa in this or that popular candy brand. Junk food really! All this is, of course, buttressed by political correctness on my part: the cocoa farmers I meet in Ghana, or their like elsewhere in the world, will do much better from a fair-traded, high-cocoa product than the confections of Big Chocolate. It's nice when you can get such a good fit between what is right and what you like.

[image, unknown]

Richard Swift
for the New Internationalist Co-operative

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New Internationalist issue 304 magazine cover This article is from the August 1998 issue of New Internationalist.
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