Sunday, July 31, 2011

Chocolate Nations: Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa by Orla Ryan

Chocolate Nations: Living and Dying for Cocoa in West AfricaChocolate Nations: Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa by Órla Ryan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received this book as part of the LibraryThing early reviewers program. I'd heard a little bit about the chocolate trade and the issue of child labour and slave labour associated with it through worldvision and the unshackled group at church so I was pleased to be able to get a copy of this book written by a journalist with first hand experience in West Africa.

From the publisher:
Chocolate is one of the world's most everyday luxuries, the very word conjuring up a hint of the forbidden and a taste of the decadent. Every year, more chocolate is sold in the West even as obesity and health fears grow. Yet the story behind the chocolate bar is rarely one of luxury. The crop provides a lifeline for millions of farmers in West Africa, which produces about 70% of the world's cocoa and is crucial to the economies and politics of Ghana and Ivory Coast. Chocolate Nations examines the causes of farmer poverty, placing the story of these producers in the context of the commodity producers' global battle to make more money from their crops. Mixing economic analysis with the human stories of the African rebels, advertising executives and industry insiders, this book tells the compelling story of how chocolate bars get on supermarket shelves. 

Orla Ryan gives an excellent overview of the history of the chocolate trade and the politics and systems in these countries. As always power, the grabbing for and the holding onto, are a large motivation behind the injustices perpetrated in these countries. While fair-trade has been beneficial in some areas, the real answer is long term action and empowerment of the farmers who make a living growing chocolate. Highly recommended to gain further insight into a complex issue.

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