Watch the men who harvest cocoa try chocolate for the first time

The above video has been making the rounds the past few days. It is a segment from a Dutch online show where the host travels to the Ivory Coast. There, he speaks with some cocoa farmers and asks them what happens to the beans they collect. None of them know, so he explains that it is turned into chocolate and produces a bar. Watch to see how they react to eating the chocolate that their harvests produce for the first time.

Update: There is some push-back to the video both about its content and whether or not it is real. It is worth also considering these perspectives after watching. One reader sends along comments from a Ghanian friend who said:

These cocoa farmers must be living in the ruralest of the rural villages to not have tasted chocolate. For many years my father was an accountant for Ghana Cocoa Board and was often stationed in the rural areas. They used to distribute cocoa products like chocolates and sweets to the farmers, especially during the Christmas season. Even though they can purchase chocolate at their local “provision kiosk”, it’s not a luxury that most of them can spend their money on. I can argue that chocolate or its by-products are not foreign to them.

In a comment on MetaFilter, one commentator shares person experiences working with cocoa farmers in Cote d’Ivoire and Liberia. The person writes:

[T]he men I work with know what chocolate is. When they can afford to buy it, their kids eat a knock-off version of nutella called Chocomax (it is pretty gross). These are smart, sophisticated adult men (and women, though fewer women own their own land… they mostly just do a lot of the labor on their husbands’ and fathers’ farms). Even if they didn’t know what chocolate was, they’re plugged into their local economies, they have a sense of larger global economic forces, and they know what’s going on (we listen to BBC world service: francais every night in the forest on Ferdinand’s satellite radio. They’d ask me cutting and incisive questions about stupid American politics, like who the hell is that Sarah Palin person anyway?).

But look, this is the way an extractive (exploitative) cash-crop economy works. It’s not cute or endearing that these men who are working incredibly hard have never, or rarely, had the opportunity to sample the end-product of their labor. It’s not touching that you have to go to the big city to find chocolate, and that only a little of it is locally produced (Milka is very popular in Abidjan; Ivorian brands less so), It wouldn’t be touching if you showed a cell-phone to a coltan miner in DRC and said “Look at this amazing machine your backbreaking labor in dangerous conditions enabled!” or a diamond miner in Sierra Leone with your sparkly pretty engagement ring and said, totally amazed, “But why don’t you have one?” Consumers in the developed world should be smarter than that. The producers in the developing world – the folks enabling our lifestyles – certainly are.

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About Author

Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]humanosphere.org.

  • Sean

    This video looks pretty fake to me. They may never have tried processed chocolate, but they say they have no idea what cocoa is used for…not really too convinced on that one. And I say this based on experience in West Africa and with a lot of farmers.