Cocoa farmers get first taste of chocolate

Cocoa farmers taste chocolate for first time
Cocoa farmers taste chocolate for first time


    Cocoa farmers taste chocolate for first time


Cocoa farmers taste chocolate for first time 01:40

Story highlights

  • Cocoa farmers taste chocolate for the first time
  • Children cheered, elders smiled, one woman wanted more
  • Farmers were stunned to hear how much chocolate sold for compared to their raw material
  • But there was also pride that their cocoa made that product

As I flew down to Abidjan it was the free luxury box of chocolates being handed out in Business Class that set me thinking. I was about to land in the country from where the beans which made the chocolate originated.

Although I was here to delve into the economics of chocolate, I also realized I needed to know what the farmers who grow the vital raw material -- the cocoa beans -- actually thought of the stuff we eat so liberally.

Something told me I might find a use for the chocolates, so I took the box with me rather than scoffing them on board.

One week later, we were in the middle of a remote farm, a few hours out of Abidjan, and this thought returned. I had spent days talking about the economics of this industry, and trying to work out who was to blame for the appalling poverty we had witnessed. I had seen diseased trees and visited experimental farms. I had heard from cooperatives and sat in tribal meetings -- but I had not seen any chocolate.

INFOGRAPHIC: The real cost of Cocoa-nomics

In this village there was a small stall, selling crackers, fruits and, peculiarly a wide range of antibiotics which frankly shouldn't be taken without first getting medical advice!

Can reform ever come to cocoa industry?
Can reform ever come to cocoa industry?


    Can reform ever come to cocoa industry?


Can reform ever come to cocoa industry? 07:28
Cocoa-nomics: Income of cocoa farmers
Cocoa-nomics: Income of cocoa farmers


    Cocoa-nomics: Income of cocoa farmers


Cocoa-nomics: Income of cocoa farmers 01:25
'Cocoa-nomics': The issue of child labor
'Cocoa-nomics': The issue of child labor


    'Cocoa-nomics': The issue of child labor


'Cocoa-nomics': The issue of child labor 01:47

But there was no chocolate to be seen. None. Of course, I realize it's very hot and the stuff melts, but it still seemed a bit odd that nowhere was there any chocolate.

Then it dawned on me. These farmers and their families, had never tasted chocolate -- let alone knew the various types which are made.

I had thought it was apocryphal that the farmers who grow the beans had never tasted the final product. I never expected to come across it myself. But here I was, in the middle of a village meeting -- and we decided to see what they thought of the stuff.

Since we were filming with Nestle, my producer, Matt Percival still had a couple of Kit Kats (slightly the worst for wear after a week in his case!!!) and of course I had the luxury chocolates which I was going to use as a too-clever by half prop next to some beans or trees.

We decided to do a chocolate tasting. We quickly realized protocol dictated the tribal elders tried the Kit Kat first. It became the defining moment of this trip and my experience of Cocoa-nomics.

That look on the elders faces as they tasted a humble Kit Kat. A big, toothless grin came across one of the faces. There was much laughing and cheering. Where children would normally clamor for the stuff, here they held back. They didn't know what it was all about.

Well, one Kit Kat doesn't go very far in a village of tribal elders -- so we broke out the luxury box of chocolates.

I tried to explain the diagram and what it meant -- that one has nuts, this one is strawberry cream -- it didn't matter. One by one, the elders, then the children tasted these chocolates. One woman was quite overcome and kept wanting to try more!

READ: Why chocolate will never be the same

If this was all, you would rightly say it was as gimmick and no more. But the farmers are far more astute than that.

They wanted to know how much I had paid for the Kit Kat -- and were amazed, horrified and bewildered when I told them roughly a $1 a bar.

With their cocoa fetching a minimum of $1.5 a kilo they were working out the profit the industry was making on one bar.

This was a fortune for the farmers who earn a pittance. But the farmers were not bitter about this -- not yet anyway.

They kept saying "our cocoa makes this." There was an enormous pride in their voices and attitude that they were part of this process.

I wondered to myself, why the chocolate industry -- the manufacturers, processors and distributors -- didn't make more of an effort to ensure the farmers at least knew what their crop was creating.

Cynics will say it's because they don't want the farmers to know how valuable their crop is to the companies. I don't think so.

So we left the farmers having had their little taste of chocolate luxury. And on the drive back to Abidjan I reflected on "that moment."

Letting the farmers understand their crops use will not make them dissatisfied. There was such a pride in their faces and voices as they realized, now, for the first time, they knew what they were helping to create.

On the flight back home, when I looked at the box of chocolates being given out, or even now when I take a Kit Kat (150 are eaten globally every second) I smile and wonder at the farmer who grew the cocoa and hope it won't be too long before the farmers and their children eat the stuff again.

READ: Why chocolate doesn't grow on trees

      CNN Freedom Project

    • Dr. Richard Redett, a pediatric plastic surgeon, examines the boy at the hospital in Baltimore.

      From horror to hope

      This is the story of a young Bangladeshi boy who survived an appalling attack by a gang of men who tried to force him into begging.
    • The boy waits in an examination room at Johns Hopkins. When one of his attackers struck him across the head with a brick in 2010, he lost consciousness. Since then, he has had a remarkable recovery.

      How e-mail changed a boy's life

      It was a short e-mail -- a few simple lines. It came from a U.S. businessman, inspired to help a young boy who had been viciously attacked.
    • The boy shows the scar on his throat from the 2010 attack.

      A terrible lesson to learn

      When a taxi driver admonished CNN's Sara Sidner for giving money to a beggar in India, she soon understood why he had.
    • cfp romo colombia freedom child soldiers _00002101

      The child soldiers of Colombia

      Sara Morales has been to hell and back. She was forcibly recruited by the main guerrilla group in her country when she was just a young girl.
    • An estimated 300,000 girls and women have been forced into the sex trade in India's Andhra Pradesh. Of these, only 3,000 have been rescued so far.

      Forced to be a sex slave

      An estimated 300,00 girls and women have been forced into the sex trade in India's Andhra Pradesh -- only 3,000 have been rescued so far.
    • Sheikh Mohammed Abu Billal, who operates a safe house for captives who manage to escape the traffickers, sits with CNN's Fred Pleitgen.

      Taking stand in Sinai

      As part of the Freedom Project CNN this year returned to Egypt's Sinai Desert where people-smugglers abuse, rape and hold for ransom desperately poor refugees.
    • Bedouin Sheiks Mohammed Abu Billal (left) and Ibrahim al Munai have banded together to fight human traffickers who operate torture camps in the Sinai. Their efforts have lead to a significant decrease in people traffickers.

      Bedouin fighting people traffickers

      A band of Bedouin tribal chiefs near Egypt's border with Israel have started to fight back against the brutality of the area's people smugglers.
    • NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 01: Shackles for slave children are seen on display at the New-York Historical Society on February 1, 2012 in New York City. A rare handwritten copy of the Thirteenth Amendment which abolished slavery after it was unveiled at the society today. The document, signed by Abraham Lincoln, was unveiled to coincide with Black History Month and will be on display until April 1. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

      Global brands team up to fight slavery

      From Coca-Cola to Microsoft, some of the most recognizable brands in the world of business have joined forces in the fight against human trafficking and slavery.