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Saturday, November 11 • 3:00pm - 4:00pm
Changing Lives: One Bar At A Time

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Many of us are aware of the state of cacao in West Africa where practices like slave labor are commonplace. You see, the global chocolate industry has artificially driven down the price of chocolate at the cost of the very people who have carefully labored to harvest cocoa each season. With global income averages for farmers at $2.00 a day, this only provides them 6% of the net sales of the retail price of a chocolate bar. This model is unsustainable for communities and puts further stress on workers to participate in an economy that doesn't ultimately support their families. We are seeing people who have a history of cacao production, growers that have been multi-generational farmers, are leaving the profession altogether. 

Further, the current system makes it very difficult for farmers and womens cooperatives to become independent because they can barely afford the operating costs on their own. Additionally, if you were to go one step further and a group wanted to become independently certified, it is almost impossible since they typically cannot afford to pay for the certification costs (i.e., fair trade, organic) needed to compete in the global market. As a result, they are beholden to the exporters that hold the certifications which decrease their financial opportunities and potentially traps them in a cycle of poverty.

We created a business + social enterprise called BIJA that uses cacao to raise awareness of the human cost of chocolate and to provide economic opportunities to groups throughout the world. We are attempting to re-write the way cacao is sourced. We see the farmers as true partners and ensure those that do the hard work of growing, harvesting, and processing cacao is fairly compensated. We work with women's associations directly by first identifying their needs, then secondly by providing and paying for organic certification that is in their group's name, which we gift to them so they can sell their products to any manufacturer and not be beholden to BIJA. We've identified this be one of the single-most important levers in altering their economic potential.

Ultimately, the talk is going to leverage industry statistics along with the empirical data of the work we have done in the field, and at the same time acknowledge the work of other companies who are working diligently to address these inequities of people that are exploited in the cacao industry. We will show the groups we are currently working with in the Dominican Republic and Peru, as well as new groups we are bringing online from Ecuador and Honduras. Given the increase in demand for chocolate globally, and the fact that market prices for cocoa are at a 10-year low, it is as important as ever to understand the impact of consumer choices on developing world economies. It is important to understand the human costs of the food we consume and specifically, the impact of our choices in the world of chocolate.

avatar for Paul Newman

Paul Newman

Founder, BIJA
Paul Newman is a social communicator and documentary photographer whose work has been featured and awarded in magazines and online visual journals worldwide. His photographic work has exhibited in galleries such as the Tate Gallery London and New Mexico Natural History Museum, and... Read More →

Saturday November 11, 2017 3:00pm - 4:00pm PST
Smith Cove Cruise Terminal Pier 91 Seattle 2001 W. Garfield Street, Seattle WA 98119