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Chocolate Grows on Trees in Africa

African Chocolate Trees | Chocolate really does grow on trees in Africa

All About African Chocolate Trees


The Greek name for cocoa Theobroma means Food of the gods. What you may not know or even be aware of is the reality of what it takes to get delicious chocolate to market.

The Cacao tree is the source of cocoa beans, chocolate and so much more in Africa. 

The Cacao tree is the source of cocoa beans, chocolate and so much more in Africa.
Cacao tree is the source of cocoa beans
The chocolate, cacao or cocoa tree grows wild in the forests of tropical regions but is also one of the tender trees of tropical growth. West African farmers grow cocoa trees on small farms in tropical environments, within 15-20 degrees north and south of the equator. 

Cocoa is a delicate and sensitive crop, and farmers must protect trees from the wind and sun. They must also fertilize the soil and watch for signs of distress including attack from pests and disease. With proper care, most cocoa trees begin to yield pods at peak production levels by the fifth year, which can continue for another 10 years.

The peak time for harvesting cocoa trees is between September and December in West Africa. The cacao-tree grows wild in the forests of tropical regions growing well in humid tropical climates with regular rains and a short dry season. 

Ripe pods may be found on cocoa trees at any time. The outer husk of the pod is split with a sturdy stick and discarded along with the inner white pulp of the pod. A farmer can expect 20-50 beans per pod, depending on the variety of cocoa.

According to a study conducted by Tulane University, the number of children working in the cocoa industry increased by 46 percent in Cote d'Ivoire between 2009 and 2014. 

The widespread use of children in cocoa production is controversial, not only for the concerns about child labor and exploitation but also because, as of 2015, up to 19,000 children working in Côte d'Ivoire, the world's biggest producer of cocoa, may have been victims of trafficking or slavery. 

Cocoa farmers and laborers use long-handled, mitten-shaped steel tools to reach the pods and snip them without wounding the soft bark of the tree. All pods are carefully dropped to the ground and collected.

Chocolate smores
Chocolate smores

Once the beans have been removed from the pods, the workers pack piles them into mounds. The piles are covered with mats or banana leaves. The heap method is typically found in Africa. 

The layer of pulp that naturally surrounds the beans heats up and ferments the beans. Fermentation is an important step, lasting three to seven days, that produces the chocolate flavor we know when the beans are roasted. The beans are then dried. 

In the sun, this usually takes several days. In some months, the cocoa farmer can dry his beans simply by laying them on trays or matting and leaving them to bask in the sun.

After the beans are dried and packed into large sacks, the farmer sells to a buying station or local agent. Cocoa is stored in bags or bulk in the warehouse. The buyer then transports the bags to an exporting company. 

The exporting company inspects the cocoa and places it into burlap, sisal, or plastic bags. The cocoa is transported to the exporter’s warehouse near a port. Côte d'Ivoire leads the world in the production and export of the cocoa beans.

West Africa produces 70 percent of the world’s cocoa beans. Many African countries now grow cocoa trees, Sierra Leone, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Nigeria, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and Congo but the main producers are Ghana, Nigeria and Cote d'Ivoire. Cocoa farmers in West Africa, where 70 percent of the world’s cocoa comes from, can earn as little as .25 to .50 cents a day.

Did you know?
Following its independence in 1960, Cote d’Ivoire’s stability and the blossoming of its labor-intensive cocoa and coffee industries in the southwest made it an attractive destination for migrants from other parts of the country and its neighbors, particularly Burkina Faso.

Cote d'Ivoire is heavily dependent on agriculture and associated activities, which employ approximately two-thirds of the population. For the last 5 years, Cote d'Ivoire's growth rate has been among the highest in the world.

Many Ivoiriens lack documentation proving their nationality, which prevents them from accessing education and well-paying jobs birth on Cote d'Ivoire soil does not automatically result in citizenship.

Thank you for reading how chocolate grows on trees in Africa and how chocolate cocoa bean pods are processed.



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