This is what chocolate looks like before it’s ground and made into bars. This is cacao, dried and cracked open to reveal the dark richness inside. We saw these particular beans at a Maya farmer’s home in Belize, just before the holidays. There, we witnessed the enormous labor involved in growing, harvesting and preparing cacao. And we learned just how tough it is for farmers to make money at this job (one farmer estimated he could earn roughly $600-$800 a year farming 12 acres of cacao).
Today, The Guardian reports on the grim future of chocolate, and the need for a new business model that does more to help the (largely rural) (often impoverished) farmers who grow cacao. Just a small fraction of the money paid on chocolate typically trickles down to the farmer. That’s why many of the Maya villagers we met hope one day to work for a bean-to-bar system in which they grow the cacao—and they also make the chocolate bars. Otherwise, they say, too many middlemen get between their hard labor and profits.