As part of their globalization and economics unit, 7th and 8th graders were in for a treat when founder of Viveré Chocolates, Robert Bowden, stopped by to share his experiences in the ever-complex chocolate industry. Learning about the process of how chocolate is made included the chance to eat real raw cacao beans! Robert also shared his active involvement with the Heirloom Cacao Preservation Initiative (HCP). As HCP Communications Chair, Robert frequently travels abroad to countries like Cote d'Ivoire and listens to the needs of cacao farmers. HCP is finding ways to maintain diversity and sustainability for the rapid growth of the industry. RO students realized that the 100 billion dollar chocolate industry is produced by the world's poorest farmers. HCP focuses on what they can do for farmers at the government level. Rather than increase pay, these desired improvements are simple "luxuries" such as running water and paved roadways. Here are some additional, eye-opening facts that Robert shared:
- Roughly 80% of the world's chocolate comes from Cote d'Ivoire or Ghana.
- The average chocolate farmer makes $2 a day. $4 day if they are paid "well".
- Cacao farms are often made up of 5 people: a father, a mother, and 3 children.
- It takes approximately one month's salary to send just one child to school for a short period.
- Farmers are paid on the quality of the product, but almost all farmers have never tasted their final product or ANY chocolate.
- A typical American chocolate bar is composed of only 10% real chocolate.
The discussion ended with Q & A and Robert left our students with his advice for making change, "Communicate. Ask questions. Find an answer. Go."
Many thanks to Robert Bowden for coming to Red Oaks and providing our students with such a great opportunity! Be sure to check out Viveré Chocolates website, and learn more about Robert Bowden in this article from Out & About in Nashville.