No More Chocolate in 20 Years?
The cacao bean is in danger. The Nature Conservation Research Council (NCRC) recently announced that in 20 years time, "Chocolate will be much like caviar today." So what's the deal?
Unsustainable farming practices are to blame. Cacao typically grows in rainforest conditions with high biodiversity. Instead, farmers now clear the forest and use hybrid seeds to increase output over the short-term. Unfortunately, this leads to soil erosion and shorter lifespan of trees. Over time, this practice is predicted to lead to an overall shortage of cacao.
While many a chocoholic may lament this news, I wish to provide our readers with a little firsthand "reality check." Most of the world's cacao is grown in West Africa. While living in Ghana during my study-abroad year as an undergraduate, I was struck by the fact that, even though Ghana is a net exporter of cacao, most of the country's inhabitants could not afford to purchase a Cadbury or Hershey's bar. Although I shared many a fresh, delicious cacao fruit with my Ghanaian friends, actually eating a chocolate bar was considered a luxury.
For Ghanaians, "no chocolate 20 years from now" is now. Such reminders are necessary to place in perspective predictions of ecological change and impacts on human populations. While we, in wealthy, industrialized countries, may fear with trepidation the loss of resources and biodiversity associated with global warming, it is important to remember that half the world's peoples are already living that reality.