For most of us in North America, chocolate is taken for granted. We can pick up a candy bar or bag of chocolate chips almost anywhere. In Canada, we love chocolate so much that the average person consumes about 4 kg of chocolate each year.
But do we ever think about where it comes from?
As a food blogger, food is more than sustenance. Food is family sitting around the dinner table, or creating something that brings joy to the people I love. Since I began writing about food, I have learned that behind every ingredient there is a story—the shop keepers who stock it, the farmers who grow it, the companies who passionately believe in their products.
I know where a lot of my food comes from and I know how my buying choices can impact those around the globe, especially when it comes to one of my favorite foods of all time—chocolate. So what’s the story there? Where does that Caramilk bar—my favourite chocolate bar—actually come from?
The story of cocoa and Cadbury goes back many decades to family run farms.
Cadbury’s connection with Ghana began as long ago as in 1907, when William Leslie, a cocoa expert from Trinidad, was sent to explore new sources of cocoa. Ghana had some good prospects so he returned again in 1908 with some important recommendations—that the farmers be taught how to cultivate cocoa and that they receive fair payment.
The first shipment of cocoa to Bournville, bought by Leslie, was made in the Elder Dempster steamer "Zaria" which left Ghana in December 1908 and comprised 137 bags, or about 8 tons.
William Cadbury visited Ghana for the first time in January 1909 and he approved the purchase of a small estate (14 acres) at Mangoase, about 40 miles from Accra, to be used as a "model " plantation and buying centre.
The first definite cocoa buying programme was laid down by Cadbury in 1909 and 690 tons of cocoa were bought in the 1909/1910 buying season.
What I’ve learned over the last few years about my favourite chocolate bar is that Cadbury’s partnership with Ghana goes beyond the cocoa crop. With the introduction of The Cadbury Bicycle Factory program, Cadbury is tangibly improving the lives of the farming communities in the country. In the past five years, 18,000 bicycles have been delivered to cocoa-growing communities.
Wisdom and Hannah have both received bikes from The Cadbury Bicycle Factory. Hanna dreams of becoming a nurse, while Wisdom loves football and excels at Math and Science.
A bicycle can make a life-changing difference to a student in Africa. The result is freedom and transportation which can cut travel time to school up to four hours a day (600 hours a year!). The result is far better access to education. For girls, this means empowerment, and a far richer life not just for themselves, but their children as well. A bicycle can pull a family out of extreme poverty—and you can help, just by visiting www.facebook.com/BicycleFactory every day, where you can learn more about the students benefitting from this initiative and participate yourself. Simply click “start building now” then choose your favourite virtual chocolate bar, to turn it into a bicycle part. Each day, you can add 5 parts to a bicycle.
Only five parts, you say? You bet. Go online and visit every day. Put together a team and challenge each other to build the most bikes. Cadbury's goal is 5,000 bikes, and so far there's less than 52 days left to go. That's a lot of bikes to build! For us, it's just a few computer clicks but for the kids who receive the bikes, it's an avenue to reach their dreams.
Fourteen-year-old Lawrencia wants to be a pilot, and the video below shows the impact that a bike has had on her reaching her dream. I dare you to watch and not be moved. Personally, I don't think I'll ever look at cocoa in quite the same way again. Instead, I'll probably think of where it came from, the people who got it from the fields to my kitchen, and all those gloriously happy faces of kids just like my own, whose lives were changed just because of a bike.