Why choose fair trade chocolate?

Feb 16, 2011 at 5:40 p.m. ET

If you’ve ever felt guilty indulging in chocolate treats (and who hasn’t?), then we have a way to alleviate “eater’s remorse.” Here's one story of how fair trade chocolate, UK-based Divine Chocolate, has improved the lives of coco farmers in Ghana.

Fair trade chocolate

Fair trade chocolate

Like coffee beans, cocoa beans are grown and harvested around the world. While most companies outsource their chocolate production, UK-based Divine Chocolate is different. It is the only fair trade chocolate company that is 45 percent owned by its farmers, the Kuapa Kokoo cocoa farmers cooperative in Ghana.

According to Fair Trade USA, Fair Trade certification ensures that cocoa farmers receive a fair price for their harvest, creates direct trade links between farmer-owned cooperatives and buyers, and strictly prohibits slave and child labor.

Fair Trade chocolate is better for the economy and often allows the farmers to invest in better technology to produce a higher quality product.

The importance of ownership

In Ghana, cocoa revenues comprise 3 percent of the country's imports and, with 1.6 million people in Ghana involved in cocoa production, it's more important than ever that these policies are enforced. By treating the farmers equally, many of them are able to take personal pride in their work.

"Ownership of Divine has had an impact on my life," said cocoa farmer Comfort Kumeah. "It has increased my confidence level and empowered me to approach many important people, which any ordinary farmer cannot do. It has enlightened me about the chocolate market especially how my own cocoa can be processed into Fair Trade chocolate. I am more respected in my community and my organization through my involvement in Divine Chocolate."

The success of Divine means additional income for the cooperative and for its members to invest.

Each year, more villages can sink their own drinking water wells, build schools, or benefit from health care programs. Ownership of Divine and the Fair Trade premiums the farmers receive has enabled farmers to plan for their future, send their children to school, learn new skills, and invest in sustainable farming methods that improve their farms.

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Comfort Kumeah lives in the small town of Mem in the Ashanti region of Ghana. She is a member of Kuapa Kokoo cocoa growers' cooperative and was recently elected the national secretary.

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