All posts by nkalema

Money can grow on trees: the valuation of and payment for ecosystem services in the chocolate industry

As issues like food justice and consumer activism are popularized around certain products, there is an increased demand that food is good concerning not only taste but ethicality as well. When exploring what was being done to make chocolate more ethical and sustainable, I became interested in exploring how chocolate companies were taking action to make their products more “good” for people, the planet, and the sustainability of the industry.

A multi-billion dollar industry with nearly 50 million people along its global value chain, the chocolate industry, is undergoing many challenges which center around its sustainable procurement of cocoa. This is the case not only with respect to rising demands due to the expansion of new middle-class markets in Africa and Asia but is particularly relevant to concerns about the sustainability of its labour force, especially with regard to cocoa farmers and growers, and the environment, specifically with respect to the resilience of the crops affected  by climate change impacts; issues like these have affected an increasing global demand for chocolate. In fact, it is projected that by 2020, the global cocoa demand will exceed the supply by almost 1 million metric tons with industry forecasts of a 30% growth in demand amounting to 4.5 million tons by 2020. [1]

Alongside an increasing demand for chocolate, there has been a rising demand amongst consumers for greater transparency, traceability, and accountability throughout the chocolate value chain particularly at relates to social factors. [2] For example, chocolate companies are being scrutinized on the production end of its supply chain on issues like generational poverty faced by cocoa farmers, low productivity due to agricultural practices, and increasing the prevalence of many cocoa farmers and growers choosing to walk away from the industry entirely. For instance, according to CNN’s “Cocoa-nomics” series, revealed that compared to 16% received by cocoa farmers for every chocolate bar sold in the late 1980’s, today farmers receive only 3%. [3]

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Figure 1. Infographic outlining the pricing of chocolate bar and how it relates to actors all along the value chain.

 

Also, as the negative impacts of climate change -including increasingly unpredictable differentiation between wet and dry season, intense rains and flooding, longer and prolonged dry periods, as well as subsequent changes in the local ecosystem – continues to grow, many consumers have increased concern about the environmental impact of food production. Together, these focus areas have come to form a basis for the concern about the sustainability of the overall chocolate industry with attention increasingly directed at the both the beginning (farmers and growers) and end (consumers) of the chocolate product supply chains. Through emergence and development sustainability mechanisms like third-party audits, chain-of-custody schemes, direct trade (bean-to-bar chocolate producers), and single-source supply chains, chocolate companies have begun to adopt new and innovative models for sustainable sourcing of cocoa.

Concerning consumers, chocolate companies have increased their marketing efforts at increasing customers’ assurance of their sustainable practices. In particularly, some chocolate producers have implemented market-driven approaches through the use of consumer-facing tools like certification labeling and standards. [4] However, even with such certifications, there have been some useful questions raised about the effectiveness of certifications at positively impacting the lives of actors at the beginning of the supply chain, particularly for farmers and growers. For example, the Fair Trade certification offers a price premium price for the production of crops grown at higher social and environmental standards; however, questions have been raised around how much of the intended benefit of the certification reaches the poorest farmers and growers. [5] (Sylla, 2014, p. 208).

And so chocolate producers have begun exploring other market-driven approaches to increasing the sustainability of its industry. Most recently, in November of 2015, many leaders came together for the COP 21, the annual United Nations Climate Change Conference, where the Paris Agreement was adopted which governs the climate change related measures calling for the reduction of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. While the  Paris agreement does not  go so far as to establish what agriculture’s role in  reducing global emissions should be, it does outline that the international community “must address climate change’s effects on agriculture to build resilience and enhance food security globally.”[6]The chocolate industry has been sensitive to the devastating effect climate change could have on its industry. In Yasin’s 2014 Salon article titled “Why climate change could mean the end of chocolate”, she points out that that in West Africa, particularly Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana where nearly 70 percent of the world’s cocoa is produced, temperatures are expected to rise by a 2-degree Celsius (36.5 F) by 2050.  Many worry that this increase in temperature could affect a greater amount of water being lost by cocoa trees to evapotranspiration making them too dry. [7] 

Overall, the COP 21’s call-to-action instilled a renewed interest in exploring how the expansion of ecosystem services markets could help industries become more sustainable, including the chocolate industry. Actors from the chocolate industry showed up to the convening to make leaders aware of the world’s first carbon-neutral chocolate company, The Change Chocolate, and distributed their chocolate to remind them of how crucial the outcomes of the talks were to the sustainability of the chocolate industry.

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Figure 2. The Change Chocolate, a carbon-neutral chocolate bar making an appearance of the COP21 with words to leaders.

While much attention has been drawn to chocolate industry’s efforts to increase crop productivity, which could include things like monocropping,  as a vehicle for farmers to get liveable incomes thus sustaining the cocoa supply chain’s labor force, some have argued that this strategy alone fails to account for the environmental externalities associated with that increased production and adverse impacts like for example the loss of biodiversity. [8] [9] (Healy, 2001, p. 151). For instance, in the case of no-shade cocoa versus shady cocoa, scholars have found that a trade-off emerges between growing no-shade cocoa that has higher yields, meaning more economic return, but is more environmentally destructive, and shady cocoa which has lower yields but is more sustainable, meaning increased biodiversity, permaculture, and carbon sequestration. [10] When the only thing valued is the consumption of resources, it can leave many developing nations having to choose between exploiting those resources and their economic development.

To bring balance to key decision-points, people have increasingly looked at valuing the ecological services provided to evaluate in a cost-to-benefit analysis against the exploitation of the said resource. Such valuation looks towards the value of not only what is provided but what may be avoided or lost as well to become the basis of an emerging environmental marketplace. Features of such markets could include tools like payment for ecosystem services (PES). [11] One of the most readily recognizable examples of PES are carbon credits.

The chocolate industry has begun to explore how to engage in carbon markets both at the beginning and end of the product supply chain. Actors in the chocolate industry are exploring how the economic valuation of environmental services provided by eco-friendly farming practices can work for payment for ecosystem services (PES) program. Such a system would be formed to create new value-streams for its cocoa producers so as to incentivize sustainable agroforestry practices monetarily. Also, as consumers become increasingly concerned with understanding how their consumption and purchasing decision impacts their overall carbon footprint, companies are marketing chocolate products that feature carbon emissions labeling.

Concerning farmers and growers and their communities,  more food companies have looked towards working with farmers and growers to introduce more ecological farming practices to curtail environmental degradation and increase the crop’s resilience. [12] An inspiring example of small-scale farmers benefiting from a PES program focused on the sequestration of carbon in the soil is the Kenya Agricultural Carbon Project (KACP). The KACP was the first organization in the world to earn verified carbon credits under the verified carbon standard (VCS) through its use of the sustainable agricultural land management (SALM) methodology for carbon sequestered in soil. [13] Later, the research on the efficacy of KALP adoption of the SALM methodology in the context of the KACP program not only provided benefits to the environment but led to increased agricultural productivity as well.

(lo-res) New manuals will help farmers in Kenya and Uganda earn carbon credits (1)
Figure 3. An agroforestry project training for farmers on how to sequester carbon and earn money.

The SALM methodology is empowering to farmers and growers because of how it engages them in measuring the impact of their eco-friendly farming practices on crop yields and the amount of carbon sequestered in the soil and makes them the PES beneficiaries for their performance of the improved farming methods.

According to Diarietou Gaye, World Bank Country Director for Kenya, “carbon credits are creating a revenue stream that enhances the extension services provided to farmers, which are critical to the adoption of these practices and also adds to farmers’ income beyond their increased crop yields.” [14] Moreover, methodologies like SALM have found their way into the chocolate world as well on both the large and small scale. For example, German-based ForestFinest Consulting, a well-renowned sustainable land-use expert, works with cocoa farming communities in Panama on a  carbon-certified climate-protection project and in turn worked with a small-scale chocolate manufacturer trying to achieve a climate-positive product. On the other end, Mondelēz International, one of the world’s largest manufacturers, promised $400 million USD  to support the production of sustainable cocoa with zero net deforestation in Africa. [16] All in all, this points to how PES is used at the beginning of the chocolate product supply chain by a variety of chocolate industry actors.

Chocolate is a product that has a relatively high carbon footprint associated with it, attributed mostly to its production, and chocolate producers have already started marketing and selling their carbon-neutral or reduced carbon impact chocolate products as a potential buying point for some consumers and in preparation for anticipated legislation requiring such labeling. [17]

chocolate_graphic_v3_english
Figure 4.  An infographic featuring the carbon footprint associated with different types of chocolate.

While some chocolate companies have chosen to focus its carbon neutrality or reduction effort on the production side of the chocolate product supply chain, others have decided to steer that focus in other areas. For example, Gru Rococo, a British chocolate company transported its chocolate bars via sail and solar powered ships and then sold famously sold its 3.5 ounces bars for around $21 USD each. [18] The company’s spokeswoman explained that the price was meant to shock consumers to help them realize that “people are not paying anywhere near the real environmental price for chocolate when they buy an ordinary bar. This is chocolate without an impact.” [19] While this company is making significant steps in reducing the carbon impact through its use of environmentally-friendly transportation, researchers have agreed that the majority of carbon reduction in the chocolate industry likely has more to do with how the crop is produced. [20]

Finally, food is about more than just taste, it’s political. With regard to food (and politics for that matter), it’s our responsibility to learn more and do more with that knowledge to increase the wellbeing of ourselves, families, community, and world. Rather than marginalizing certain cocoa growing regions from prime chocolate production markets due its reputation,  examining what steps are being taken to create ethical supply chains and better livelihoods for farmers is critical. For instance, while artisan producers may:

“purchase costly flavor beans and can thus improve the livelihoods of poor farmers, they are also unlikely to buy from a place with a negative image—such as West Africa. Colin Gasko, who has not sourced from West Africa, although he is considering it, remarked: ‘How do you buy cacao from West Africa in a way that is socially responsible, given its reputation and political climate?'”[21] (Leissle, 2013, p. 30).

Promoting the work being done to engage farmers in PES programs, brings into focus examples of cocoa cultivation working in ways that are not exploitative to workers through community-level engagement and then markets that as a selling point for buying chocolate from that community. It helps to draw consumers to become aware of the communities it purchases from and imagine their decision to purchase as being supportive of its wellbeing rather than contributing to its exploitation. By focusing on the community-level, it helps to disrupt the biases blanketed over the entire region and helps producers from those regions that are growing cocoa ethically to have access to the lucrative artisan and fine chocolate markets. An excellent example of this approach being used is in the case of Divine Chocolates.[22] (Ibid., p. 27). Essentially, it helps to counter the “dislocation of production and consumption in commodity markets”[23](Martin & Sampeck, 2015, p. 48) and achieve “the transformation of the relationship between producers and consumers.”[24] (Ibid.)

Food and climate change activism has re-shaped ideas, policies and industries and has led to positive transformations in key agricultural industries, like coffee for example. This was accomplished through the work of multiple stakeholders with communities rather than excluding those communities that needed to improve to lucrative areas of the market. When looking to recent examples of  how the chocolate industry is beginning to engage in environmental markets to make itself more sustainable, such programs have the ability to shine a spotlight on ethical and sustainable actors in the industry. Overall,  it is exciting to see how the incentives of the industry, farmers and consumers can come together to make the future of chocolate seem a little sweeter while bringing into focus the communities themselves.

Endnotes

[1] Goodyear, D. (n.d.). The Future of Chocolate: Why Cocoa Production is at Risk. The Guardian. Retrieved May 1, 2016, from http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/fairtrade-partner-zone/chocolate-cocoa-production-risk

[2] Mccabe, M. (2015). Fine Chocolate, Resistance, and Political Morality.Journal of Business Anthropology, 4(1), 54-81. Retrieved May 1, 2016.

[3] Torre, I. (2014, February 27). Cocoa-nomics explained: Unwrapping the chocolate industry. Retrieved May 1, 2016, from http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/13/world/africa/cocoa-nomics-explained-infographic/index.html

[4] Sylla, N. S. (2014). The Fair Trade Scandal: Marketing poverty to benefit the rich (1st ed.) (D. C. Leye, Trans.). Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Center for American Progress Energy and Environment Team. (2016, May 12). Agriculture and the Paris Agreement. Retrieved May 12, 2016, from https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/green/report/2016/05/12/137310/agriculture-and-the-paris-agreement/

[7] Scott, M. (2016, February 10). Climate & Chocolate. Climate Watch Magazine. Retrieved May 01, 2016, from https://www.climate.gov/news-features/climate-and/climate-chocolate

[8] Harris, N., Payne, O., & Mann, S. (2015, August 6). Tech tells you how much rainforest is in that chocolate bar. Retrieved May 1, 2016, from http://www.greenbiz.com/article/tech-tell-you-how-much-rainforest-chocolate-bar

[9] Healy, K. “Cacao Bean Farmers Make a Chocolate-Covered Development Climb.” In Llamas, Weavings, and Organic Chocolate: Multicultural Grassroots Development in the Andes and Amazon of Bolivia. Notre Dame, Indiana: the University of Notre Dame Press, 2001.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Attunes, P. (2013, May). Ecosystem Services. Retrieved May 1, 2016, from http://www.ejolt.org/2013/05/ecosystem-services/

[12] Ibid.

[13] Muriuki, T. (2014, January 21). Kenyans Earn First Ever Carbon Credits From Sustainable Farming. Retrieved May 1, 2016, from http://www.ecosystemmarketplace.com/articles/kenyans-earn-first-ever-carbon-credits-from-sustainable-farming/

[14] Ibid.

[15]  Fortyr, P. (2015, November 05). Sweet: Chocolate goes climate-positive with carbon insetting. Retrieved May 1, 2016, from http://www.landscapes.org/insetting-turning-things-sweet-with-climate-positive-chocolate/

[16] Taylor, L. (2015, December 12). Paris climate deal might just be enough to start turning the tide on global warming. The Guardian. Retrieved May 1, 2016, from http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/dec/13/paris-climate-deal-gives-even-a-cynic-grounds-for-optimism

[17] Inderscience Publishers. (2016, February 26). Consumers care about carbon footprint: Do consumers care about carbon emitted during the lifecycle of consumer goods?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 1, 2016, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/02/160226133615.htm

[18] Ibid.

[19] Vidal, J. (2011, May 11). UK’s Only Carbon-neutral Chocolate Arrives by Sailing Ship [blog post]. Retrieved May 1, 2016, from http://www.theguardian.com/environment/blog/2012/may/11/carbon-neutral-chocolate

[20] Ibid.

[21] Leissle, K. (2013). Invisible West Africa: The Politics of Single Origin Chocolate. Gastronomica, 13(3), 22-31. Retrieved May 1, 2016, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/gfc.2013.13.3.22?ref=search-gateway:521ecce351ea0879eb5addd32e7fa493

[22] Ibid.

[23] Martin, C. D., & Sampeck, K. E. (2015). The bitter and sweet of chocolate in Europe. Socio.hu, (Special issue 3), 37-60. doi:10.18030/socio.hu.2015en.37

[24] Ibid.

Multimedia  – Figures

  1. Torre, I., & Jones, B. (2014, February 27). The real cost of a chocolate bar [Digital image]. Retrieved May 1, 2016, from http://edition.cnn.com/2014/02/13/world/africa/cocoa-nomics-explained-infographic/index.html
  2. [The Change Chocolate supports an afforestation project.]. (2015, December 09). Retrieved May 1, 2016, from http://i1.wp.com/www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/chocolate-e1449053074396.jpg?w=669
  3. Meadu, V. (2015, July 7). New manuals will help farmers in Kenya and Uganda earn carbon credits [Innovative training projects help farmers to sequester carbon and earn cash from carbon.]. Retrieved May 1, 2016, from https://ccafs.cgiar.org/research/annual-report/2014/new-manuals-will-help-farmers-in-kenya-and-uganda-earn-carbon-credits
  4. Harris, N., Payne, O., & Mann, S. (2015, August 6). Distribution of land-use change impacts across United Cacao’s production cycle [Digital image]. Retrieved May 1, 2016, from http://www.wri.org/sites/default/files/uploads/chocolate_graphic_v3_english.png

Multimedia  – Videos

  1. Carbon Control. (2012, March 10). How does the emission trading scheme work? [Video blog post]. Retrieved May 1, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ReOj12UAus4
  2. Fair Trade Eastern Africa. (2015, December 15). Fairtrade Carbon Credits Animation [Video blog post]. Retrieved May 1, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C49FY3OKEhk

Sources

Attunes, P. (2013, May). Ecosystem Services. Retrieved May 1, 2016, from http://www.ejolt.org/2013/05/ecosystem-services/

Center for American Progress Energy and Environment Team. (2016, May 12). Agriculture and the Paris Agreement. Retrieved May 12, 2016, from https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/green/report/2016/05/12/137310/agriculture-and-the-paris-agreement/

Fortyr, P. (2015, November 05). Sweet: Chocolate goes climate-positive with carbon insetting. Retrieved May 1, 2016, from http://www.landscapes.org/insetting-turning-things-sweet-with-climate-positive-chocolate/

Goodyear, D. (n.d.). The Future of Chocolate: Why Cocoa Production is at Risk. The Guardian. Retrieved May 1, 2016, from http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/fairtrade-partner-zone/chocolate-cocoa-production-risk

Harris, N., Payne, O., & Mann, S. (2015, August 6). Tech tells you how much rainforest is in that chocolate bar. Retrieved May 1, 2016, from http://www.greenbiz.com/article/tech-tell-you-how-much-rainforest-chocolate-bar

Healy, K. “Cacao Bean Farmers Make a Chocolate-Covered Development Climb.” In Llamas, Weavings, and Organic Chocolate: Multicultural Grassroots Development in the Andes and Amazon of Bolivia. Notre Dame, Indiana: the University of Notre Dame Press, 2001.

Inderscience Publishers. (2016, February 26). Consumers care about carbon footprint: Do consumers care about carbon emitted during the lifecycle of consumer goods?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 1, 2016, from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/02/160226133615.htm

Leissle, K. (2013). Invisible West Africa: The Politics of Single Origin Chocolate. Gastronomica, 13(3), 22-31. Retrieved May 1, 2016, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/gfc.2013.13.3.22?ref=search-gateway:521ecce351ea0879eb5addd32e7fa493

Martin, C. D., & Sampeck, K. E. (2015). The bitter and sweet of chocolate in Europe. Socio.hu, (Special issue 3), 37-60. doi:10.18030/socio.hu.2015en.37

Mccabe, M. (2015). Fine Chocolate, Resistance, and Political Morality. Journal of Business Anthropology, 4(1), 54-81. Retrieved May 1, 2016.

Muriuki, T. (2014, January 21). Kenyans Earn First Ever Carbon Credits From Sustainable Farming. Retrieved May 1, 2016, from http://www.ecosystemmarketplace.com/articles/kenyans-earn-first-ever-carbon-credits-from-sustainable-farming/

Scott, M. (2016, February 10). Climate & Chocolate. Climate Watch Magazine. Retrieved May 01, 2016, from https://www.climate.gov/news-features/climate-and/climate-chocolate

Sylla, N. S. (2014). The Fair Trade Scandal: Marketing poverty to benefit the rich (1st ed.) (D. C. Leye, Trans.). Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press.

Taylor, L. (2015, December 12). Paris climate deal might just be enough to start turning the tide on global warming. The Guardian. Retrieved May 1, 2016, from http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/dec/13/paris-climate-deal-gives-even-a-cynic-grounds-for-optimism

Torre, I. (2014, February 27). Cocoa-nomics explained: Unwrapping the chocolate industry. Retrieved May 1, 2016, from http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/13/world/africa/cocoa-nomics-explained-infographic/index.html

Vidal, J. (2011, May 11). UK’s Only Carbon-neutral Chocolate Arrives by Sailing Ship [blog post]. Retrieved May 1, 2016, from http://www.theguardian.com/environment/blog/2012/may/11/carbon-neutral-chocolate

Chocolate Edible Bodies

The fetishization of Black people, particularly their skin, in cocoa advertising has been posited to relates to the peculiar historical relationships founded on the commodification of both. [1] According to Silke Hackensech, a German scholar, chocolate is  “a commodity that has historically been produced, in the first stage of the production process, on cocoa farms by enslaved Africans, or people working under conditions akin to slavery.”[2]   Through historical and complex systems of global trade, labour, and production, chocolate and Blackness have been linked together, particularly as it relates to the marketing of and advertisements for chocolate whereas the “usage of the chocolate signifier . . . illustrates how configurations of vision and visuality invest the body with social meaning.”[3] 

In the first four chocolate advertisement provided, the adverts reenact colonial fantasies through its representation of the Black body, particularly the skin, as something produced and to be consumed for a mainstream mass market audiences. These marketing images perpetuate “[W]estern sexist and racist ideologies under a veneer of pleasurable consumption” [4] and symbolically fetishize the Black bodies (as proxy for chocolate) as a consumable commodity.

This is exemplified in Figure 1, 2 and 3, whereas the subjects are disembodied and dominate the adverts with very little reference to the actual product itself. In both of these adverts the subjects are Black but shown only in pieces as if not human and their skin is meant to visually allude to chocolate.

 

dove-chocolate-dove-chocolate-small-500651
Figure 1. Dove Chocolate (2007)
magnum-ice-cream-cracking-small-66364-1
Figure 2. Magnum Chocolate (2012)
sweet-br2_25
Figure 3. An Unknown Brazilian Chocolate Company’s Ad

By visually alluding to these images as chocolate, these ads seem to invite consumers to consume these black bodies. In the essay “Eating the Other: Desire and Resistance”, Bell Hooks examines how racial difference is commodified and represented as the “Other” for the figurative consumption of white audiences and further explain that as “cultural, ethnic, and racial differences will be continually commodified and offered up as new dishes to enhance the white palate–that the Others will be eaten, consumed, and forgotten.” [5] In all of the example adverts provided, they demonstrate a dehumanizing effect by showing the photo subjects as dismembered black bodies with eyes that cannot be met by the viewer.

Essentially, these adverts invoke the trope of the eroticized “edible black body” explained as “a devouring cultural connections between black bodies and food objects . . . bring to the forefront the violence and ambivalence of American racial politics in which desire and disgust for black bodies.” [6] Moreover, images like the examples shown visually “produce representations of market, parlor, and kitchen cannibalism”[7] and “at its most extreme . . . the representation of the black body as food itself.”[8] The representation of Black bodies as consumable is troublesome as it harkens back to the tendency for the humanity of Black people to be diminished due to the racial stereotype of them being not quite human.

While the linkages between women, chocolate, and sex are common themes found in cocoa advertising [9], Figure 4. Is racially problematic in a different way found through its use of Blackface minstrelsy.

magnum-chocolate-possession
Figure 4. Magnum Chocolate Ad (2012)

In this instance, the advertisement showcases a model painted brown evoking images of not only being covered in chocolate but Blackface. What is striking is the contrasted poses of the subject  without Blackface and with Blackface. When unpainted, she strikes a  direct pose which is contained and features her thoughtful gaze into the camera. However, once painted, she is posed in a sexualized and oddly disjointed manner that is completely divorced and seemingly oblivious of the camera in what is assumed to be due to her being in some sort of sexual ecstasy.  This advert comes to  represent what scholar Michael Pickering termed commodity racism, which is the selling of not only what is produced but racial stereotypes as well for consumers.[10]

In all of examples of Figures 1-4,  a theme is repeated where the subject is presented as a sexualized objects with that sexuality seemingly imbued in the festishization of Black skin. Moreover, these images engages in the harmful reproduction of the harmful racial stereotypes that Black people are hypersexual and subhuman. [11] This is meaningful to analyze as scholars like Robertson recognize that the “textual analysis of chocolate advertising has, then, been useful in illuminating contemporary understandings of gender, race and the nation.”[12]

After analysing many of the themes I found problematic in several chocolate advert examples, I decided to try my hand at creating an advert that is able to subvert the racially discursive content found above while featuring a Black person enjoying chocolate shown in figure 5.

stock-video-73729883-attractive-african-american-woman-eating-chocolate-bar
Figure 5. My Chocolate Ad

 

For instance, in my reimagined chocolate ad, like all of the others, this ad focuses on the visual. However, unlike the other examples, the subject of my photo is fully-dressed, stands in a non-sexualized pose, and stares straight into the camera, her gaze meeting with her audience easily. This photo exhibits strength, agency, and the subject as an individual  human being that can be related to by  the audience. Most importantly, this ad is clearly showing what is to be consumed as food, chocolate bar, and the subject as the consumer rather than the consumable. 

Footnotes

  1. Hackensesch, S. (2015). ‘To Highlight My Beautiful Chocolate Skin’: On the Cultural Politics of the Racialised Epidermis. In C. Rosenthal & D. Vanderbeke (Eds.), Probing the Skin: Cultural Representations of Our Contact Zone (pp. 73-91). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. (Pg. 88)
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Robertson, E. (2009). Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester University Press. (Pg. 10)
  5. Hooks, B. (1992). Eating the Other: Desire and Resistance. In Black Looks: Race and Representation (pp. 21-39). South End Press. (Pg. 39)
  6. Tompkins, K. W. (2007). ” Everything ‘Cept Eat Us”: The Antebellum Black Body Portrayed as Edible Body. Callaloo, 30(1), 201-224. (Pg. 201)
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Robertson, E. (2009). Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester University Press. (Pg. 34)
  10. Pickering, M. (2013). Commodity Racism and the Promotion of Blackface Fantasies. Colonial Advertising & Commodity Racism, 4, (Pg. 119)
  11. Yancy, G. (2008). Black bodies, white gazes: The continuing significance of race. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. (Pg, 144)
  12. Robertson, E. (2009). Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester University Press. (Pg. 20)

Sources

  • Hackensesch, S. (2015). ‘To Highlight My Beautiful Chocolate Skin’: On the Cultural Politics of the Racialised Epidermis. In C. Rosenthal & D. Vanderbeke (Eds.), Probing the Skin: Cultural Representations of Our Contact Zone (pp. 73-91). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. (Pg. 88)
  • Hooks, B. (1992). Eating the Other: Desire and Resistance. In Black Looks: Race and Representation (pp. 21-39). South End Press. (Pg. 39)
  • Pickering, M. (2013). Commodity Racism and the Promotion of Blackface Fantasies. Colonial Advertising & Commodity Racism, 4, (Pg. 119)
  • Robertson, E. (2009). Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester University Press. (Pg. 10)
  • Tompkins, K. W. (2007). ” Everything ‘Cept Eat Us”: The Antebellum Black Body Portrayed as Edible Body. Callaloo, 30(1), 201-224. (Pg. 201)
  • Yancy, G. (2008). Black bodies, white gazes: The continuing significance of race. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. (Pg, 144)

Images

 

 

 

 

Slave-free Sugar: exploring the economic linkages between sugar, British industrialization, and abolition

As the global commodification of sugar served to enrich European markets, laying the groundwork for an industrialized and pre-capitalist economy, the discourse around the abolition of slavery also shifted. The growing efficacy of arguments for the abolishment of slavery coincided with the emergence of technological advances and changed  labor needs. In short, as the efficiencies around sugar production increased to drastically decrease the amount of human capital required in its production, the need for slave labor diminished.

For example, the scholar Eric Williams, in what is now referred to as the “Williams Thesis”, argued that central to the development of Britain’s economy into a capitalist and industrial one was its accumulation of economic surplus through slavery and that it was the decline of the  sugar economy rather  than morality that led to Britain’s abolishment  of slavery and slave trade in the British West Indies. [1] In Capitalism and Slavery, it was “the commercial capitalism of the eighteenth century developed the wealth of Europe by means of slavery and monopoly. But in so doing it helped to create the industrial capitalism of the nineteenth century, which turned round and destroyed the power of commercial capitalism, slavery” explains Williams. [2] In Sweetness and Power, Mintz explains that during debates against and for both the slave trade and slavery, the future of Britain’s sugar production figured into such discussions. [3] (Mintz, 1985, p. 68)

Not all scholars shared Williams view, for example Solow explains how Eltis and Engerman, respected scholars, countered that Britain’s sugar industry when compared to its others was not its most dominant nor did it have strongest ties to Europe’s economic growth and development. [4] (Solow, 2014, p. 49) While the economic debate around the linkages between Atlantic trade and the industrialization of Britain are contested, scholars like Inikori have clarified that the central concern of Capitalism and Slavery was Williams exploration of the causality between “between industrial capitalism in England and the abolition of the slave trade and slavery by the British government” [5] (Inikori, 2012, p. 14) and demonstrate the overall economic basis of  British abolition. [6]  

On the other hand, economic linkage between slavery and sugar consumption in Britain was very much in the public consciousness; for abolitionists, it was a link they attempted to break through a campaign of public awareness, consumer activism through the boycott of sugar from the British West Indies. [7] (Carmichael, 2015, p. 8) In protesting the horrors of slavery, abolitionists called upon the British people to abstain from consuming and buying sugar from the British West Indies, thought to be derived from slave labor,  to undermine the economic foundations of slavery through collective action. [8] (p. 25)

Changing consumer habits based on increasing consumer awareness of how  a product was produced or not produced was central to the consumer’s economic resistance to slavery, which included buycotts. For example, a strategy adopted included other colonial sugar producers marketing their product as “free sugar” signaling to consumers that the commodity was derived from non-slave labor which may have correlated with “positive brand association (Figure 1). [9] (p. 67) This technique is not too dissimilar from today’s usage of certifications of the ethical and sustainably sourced/produced products, like coffee and chocolate for example. 

east_india_sugar_not_made_by_slaves_glass_sugar_bowl_bm
Figure 1. East India Sugar Bowl

Finally, the development of print culture introduced new strategies for promoting the boycott campaign included literary and visual materials to shape the public discourse. [10] (p. 26) For example, in 1791 James Gillray released “Barbarities in the West Indies‟ a cartoon satirising horrors and atrocities of sugar slavery (Figure 2) , the image worked to make explicit the link between human suffering  and violence  through the institution of slavery and sugar sourced from the British West Indies.

NPG D12417; 'Barbarities in the West Indies' by James Gillray, published by  Hannah Humphrey
Figure 2. Barbarities in the West Indies, by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey, hand-coloured etching, published 23 April 1791 (NGP D12417)

All in all,  historical scholars continue to debate to what extent sugar played a role in Britain’s industrialization and the emergence of capitalism, arguing primarily the economic importance of sugar to Britain overall. However, even while this is the  subject of ongoing  historical debate, it may be reasonably inferred that for many British consumers, the economic link between sugar and their consumer behavior  and consumption habits  was well understood. This is most easily demonstrated in their resistance to slavery using economic strategies like the boycott of British West India sugar and buycott East India sugar. This would become one of the earliest examples of consumer and food activism. 

Endnotes

[1] Selwyn H. H. Carrington. (2003). Capitalism & Slavery and Caribbean Historiography: An Evaluation. The Journal of African American History, 88(3), 304–312. http://doi.org/10.2307/3559074

[2] Williams, Eric (2015-09-17). Capitalism and Slavery (Kindle Locations 5839-5843). Lulu.com. Kindle Edition.

[3] Mintz, S. W. (1985). Sweetness and power: The place of sugar in modern history. New York: Penguin.

[4] Solow, B. L. (2014). The Economic Consequences of the Atlantic Slave Trade. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.

[5] Inikori, J. E. (2002). Africans and the industrial revolution in England: A study in international trade and economic development. New York: Cambridge University Press.

[6]  Ibid.

[7] Carmichael, L. (2015). Fetishism and the Moral Marketplace: How Abolitionist Sugar Boycotts in the 1790s Defined British Consumers and the West Indian” Other” (Master’s Thesis,Victoria University of Wellington). Retrieved from http://researcharchive.vuw.ac.nz/bitstream/handle/10063/4941/thesis.pdf?sequence=1.

[8]  Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

Sources

Carmichael, L. (2015). Fetishism and the Moral Marketplace: How Abolitionist Sugar Boycotts in the 1790s Defined British Consumers and the West Indian” Other” (Master’s Thesis,Victoria University of Wellington). Retrieved from http://researcharchive.vuw.ac.nz/bitstream/handle/10063/4941/thesis.pdf?sequence=1.

Inikori, J. E. (2002). Africans and the industrial revolution in England: A study in international trade and economic development. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Mintz, S. W. (1985). Sweetness and power: The place of sugar in modern history. New York: Penguin.

Selwyn H. H. Carrington. (2003). Capitalism & Slavery and Caribbean Historiography: An Evaluation. The Journal of African American History, 88(3), 304–312. http://doi.org/10.2307/3559074

Solow, B. L. (2014). The Economic Consequences of the Atlantic Slave Trade. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.

Williams, Eric (2015-09-17). Capitalism and Slavery (Kindle Locations 5839-5843). Lulu.com. Kindle Edition.

Image

Figure 1. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:East_India_Sugar_not_made_by_Slaves_Glass_sugar_bowl_BM.jpg

Figure 2. http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portraitLarge/mw61443/Barbarities-in-the-West-Indias-Indies

Mayan marriage traditions around cacao and chocolate

Chocolate and cacao was imbued with religious meaning and incorporated into ceremonies in unique ways that still carry over to today. Particularly poignant examples can be found in the context of the marriage traditions of the Maya. Chocolate was used by the Maya to seal marriage negotiations and ceremonies. Coe and Coe illustrate how special a role cocoa played in Mayan wedding explaining how brides and grooms would each exchange five cacao beans along with their vows  to execute the contract of marriage. (Coe, The True History of Chocolate, 2013, Kindle Locations 868-870.)

Such an important role cacao and chocolate played in marriage traditions that it too was represented in important historical artifacts of the Maya.

ans_21_06_2
Image 1. A depiction of an exchange of cacao beans during a marriage ceremony.

This post classic Maya picture comes from the Codex Nuttall and shows a Mayan wedding scene in which chocolate is being exchanged by the bride, Lady 13 Snake, and groom, Mixtec king 8 Deer “Tiger Claw” of Tilantongo. (Mixtec)

The longevity of this tradition is apparent in many Mayan wedding traditions even today. For example, the Awakateko are a Mayan ethnic group from the that reside in the Aguacatan municipality located in the northwestern highlands of modern-day Guatemala. Mayan marriage traditions practiced today by this people still feature cacao quite prominently. For example,  after marriage negotiation between families, a marriage ceremony is performed which is  known as a quicyuj. The quicyuj means “cacao beans” and referential to the Mayan custom of using cacao beans to pay bride-prices/dowries to cement the contract to marry between the groom and bride. (Brintnall, 1979, pp. 82-84) 

Final Mayan Chocolate vessel Illustration
Image 2. A depiction of a premarital bride-price negotiation and exchange.

A modern example of  a traditional Mayan wedding ceremony showcasing the role of cacao beans may be viewed here.

The relationship between chocolate and marriages would extend beyond the ceremony and negotiations; chocolate was used as a tie that could bind people and families together but it was also used to keep them together, particularly by women. Typically, chocolate  drinks were made by women rather than men and so that role was unique. An example of a woman making chocolate in the traditional Mayan fashion may be viewed here.  

After the Spanish conquest, chocolate continued to be used to treat marital difficulties by women who learned from the indigenous women of the area. For instance, in Guatemala during the 16th century when experiencing marital difficulties, like infidelity or spousal abuse, women would often turn to serving bewitched  or “doctored” chocolate drinks to their partners.(Few, 2005, pp. 673-687) These specially prepared chocolate drinks were thought to imbue women with powers over men, and so offered women who prepared this drink a certain amount of agency, particularly significant for indigenous women and African/Mulatto women that often worked as domestics or slaves in  during the Spanish colonial period of Guatemala, around the 16th century.

Understanding more about how cacao and chocolate was incorporated into rituals around marriage, both in the pre-Columbian and colonial periods, is fascinating. it is interesting to briefly explore how Mayan traditions surrounding cocoa, chocolate and marriage related to today’s customs and to women. From the exchange of cacao beans to execute a marriage contract to the preparation of bewitched chocolate drinks to preserve a marriage, chocolate and cacao played a pivotal role.

Sources

Brintnall, D E. 1979. Revolt Against the Dead: The Modernization of a Mayan Community in the Highlands of Guatemala. Library of Anthropology. Gordon and Breach. https://books.google.com/books?id=-Merrz3IoqUC. (82-84)

Coe, Sophie D.; Coe, Michael D. (2013-06-28). The True History of Chocolate (Kindle Locations 868-870). Thames & Hudson. Kindle Edition.

Few, M. (2005). Chocolate, sex, and disorderly women in late-seventeenth-and early-eighteenth-century Guatemala. Ethnohistory, 52(4), 673-687

Mixtec. (n.d.). Retrieved February 18, 2016, from http://www.ancientscripts.com/mixtec.html

Restall, M. (2009). The Black middle: Africans, Mayas, and Spaniards in colonial Yucatan. CA: Stanford University Press. (271-272)

Images

  1. A depiction of an exchange of cacao beans during a marriage ceremony[Photograph found in Codex Zouche-Nuttall, ADEVA facsimile edition, Graz, Austria]. (2015, December 4). Retrieved February 16, 2016, from http://www.mexicolore.co.uk/images-ans/ans_21_06_2.jpg
  2. Mayan Chocolate vessel Illustration [Photograph found in Denver Art Museum, Denver]. (2012, November). Retrieved February 16, 2016, from http://creativity.denverartmuseum.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Final-Mayan-Chocolate-vessel-Illustration.jpg

Multimedia Sources

Spirituality Riviera Maya: Traditional Mayan Wedding Spirituality Riviera Maya [Video file]. (2013, October 25). Retrieved February 16, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xosdr-Tj_nI (Marriage ceremony showcasing the Mayan tradition of exchanging cocoa beans)

Toledo Ecotourism Association – making a chocolate drink [Video file]. (2008, May 10). Retrieved February 16, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8vC4dq69rqE (Mayan woman making a traditional chocolate drink of chocolate and maize)