As our contingency of Dutch, Ivorian, and Americans waited to see the Ashanti King, drums pounded and bright colors flashed, and delegations passed by to pay their respects to the king. We were on a mission to create a film called “For the Love of Chocolate.” But not just a love of that creamy, sweet chocolate bar that we’re all familiar with in western world, also a love for the bean, the way it’s made, and most importantly, the people that make it.
I traveled to the heart of the cocoa growing region with my colleagues from Mars, Dutch NGO Solidaridad, and a film crew just a few weeks ago, during the height of cocoa production. Dutch actress Katja Schuurman led the way as she narrated the journey from the remote farms around Kumasi, Ghana, to the Ghana CocoaBOD which regulates the trade, to the NGO Solidaridad and the Dutch government that supports sustainable production, and finally to Mars who transforms the materials into the chocolate that we are all familiar with.
Amongst the music and general celebrations, we waited to meet the Ashanti King to thank him for his support of sustainable cocoa production in his region. The Ashanti tribe stretches across the cocoa belt in Ghana and part of Cote d’Ivoire, and the King is an important cultural figurehead to the local population. Cocoa is an essential source of economic activity for the people that live here. 25 percent of Ghana’s economy and 20 percent of the population is dependent on cocoa, and much like Cote d’Ivoire where Mars runs the Vision for Change program, farmers here suffer low yields and thus low incomes from aging trees and lack of appropriate inputs to increase their cocoa production.