Story

Ivory Coast: Where Does Chocolate Come From?

May 17, 2012|

DiCampo_001.jpg

A mural on the wall at Choco Ivoire, an Ivorian company that processes cocoa butter in San Pedro. Image by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.

DiCampo_003.jpg

A farmer looks over cocoa seedlings on a farm outside of Pinhou. Image by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.

DiCampo_004.jpg

Cocoa pods grow on farmland near Pinhou. Image by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.

DiCampo_005.jpg

Six-year-old Bahe Campbell in Pinhou. Pinhou's official traditional dancer was killed during post-election violence last year, and now several children wear traditional attire to train and compete to fill the role. Image by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.

DiCampo_009.jpg

A man sees his destroyed home for the first time since fleeing a year earlier from a village near Blolequin. He had been living in a refugee camp in Liberia. Image by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.

DiCampo_010.jpg

Four local men stand amidst the recent ruins of Zibablu Yeblu, which was attacked in February 2012. While large-scale fighting has ceased in the country, small attacks are still carried out, a sign of continued ethnic strife. Image by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.

DiCampo_011.jpg

A group of Dozo, or traditional hunters, pose for a photograph at their encampment in Duekoue. The role of the Dozo in last year's post-election violence is unclear; while many maintain that they are the protectors of the region, supporters of former President Laurent Gbagbo insist that the Dozo joined with the advancing opposition army and participated in massacres. Image by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.

DiCampo_012.jpg

Items in a destroyed home in Niambli. A village divided between local and foreign ethnic groups, Niambli was the site of heavy fighting during last year's post-election violence. Image by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.

DiCampo_014.jpg

Farmers take a break on a rubber plantation owned by Youkou Morris Gnagbi (right) in Faye. Farming rubber often brings a higher profit than cocoa for less work and may eventually surpass it as the nation's primary cash crop. Image by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.

DiCampo_017.jpg

Young children play with tent poles at the Nahibly refugee camp outside of Duekoue. Duekoue was the site of heavy fighting and a massacre that saw hundreds die during last year's post-election violence. Many people still refuse to leave the relative security of the refugee camp to return home. Image by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.

DiCampo_019.jpg

A married couple stands in their recently rebuilt home in Niambli. A village divided between local and foreign ethnic groups, Niambli was the site of heavy fighting during last year's post-election violence. The village is now predominantly inhabited by people from the foreigners' side, as the locals still live in refugee camps. Image by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.

DiCampo_020.jpg

A woman who was the victim of sexual violence during last year's post-election violence in Duekoue. Image by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.

DiCampo_021.jpg

Farmland burns so it can be cleared for a new planting season outside of San Pedro. Image by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.

DiCampo_022.jpg

Refugees who had been living in Liberia wait to be returned home to their villages in a large UN refugee repatriation in Toulepleu. Having fled during last year's post-election violence, they will see their homes for the first time in a year. Image by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.

DiCampo_023.jpg

Refugees who had been living in Liberia process paperwork before being returned home to their villages. Image by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.

DiCampo_024.jpg

Refugees who had been living in Liberia are returned home to their villages in a large UN refugee repatriation in western Ivory Coast. Image by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.

DiCampo_025.jpg

Refugees returning to their village for the first time in a year. Image by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.

DiCampo_026.jpg

A woman begins rebuilding her destroyed house in Bledi Dieya. Image by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.

DiCampo_027.jpg

Women from various ethnic groups work together to prepare a meal for a reconciliation ceremony in the Carrefour neighborhood of Duekoue. Carrefour was the site of a massacre in which hundreds of people were killed in March 2011. Image by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.

DiCampo_028.jpg

Community leaders speak at a reconciliation ceremony in the Carrefour neighborhood of Duekoue. During the 2011 post-election violence, Duekoue was the site of heavy fighting and a massacre that killed hundreds. The reconciliation event was not well attended. Image by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.

DiCampo_029.jpg

The rubble of former homes in Niambli. A village divided between local and foreign ethnic groups, Niambli was the site of heavy fighting during the 2011 post-election violence. Image by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.

DiCampo_030.jpg

The home of a cocoa exporter in San Pedro. Image by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.

DiCampo_031.jpg

An employee of Saf Cacao, the largest nationally owned cocoa exporter in Ivory Coast, next to stacks of cocoa in San Pedro. Image by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.

DiCampo_033.jpg

Manual laborers unload trucks of cocoa at Saf Cacao in San Pedro. Image by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.

DiCampo_034.jpg

A manual laborer rests amid sacks of cocoa at Saf Cacao, the largest nationally owned cocoa exporter in Ivory Coast, in San Pedro. Image by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.

DiCampo_035.jpg

Workers clean machinery at Choco Ivoire, an Ivorian company that processes cocoa butter. Image by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.

DiCampo_039.jpg

Cocoa butter on a table after being tested for its quality at Choco Ivoire, an Ivorian company in San Pedro. Image by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.

The story begins innocently enough. Fertile soil attracts labor from far and wide. Factories provide employment, farmland is plentiful, and for a time the economy of Ivory Coast booms as a much-desired commodity – cocoa – is exported across the globe.

But the story of cocoa has never been an innocent one. So valuable in the Aztec court that it was used as currency, blood has been shed over cocoa profits since Europeans first developed a taste for chocolate. Over the past two centuries, farming and production have moved from country to country, from the Caribbean to West Africa, always dependent on rich farmland and cheap labor.

Ivory Coast’s ethnic strife is the most recent chapter in cocoa’s troubled history. Initially migrant workers from across West Africa were invited to the country to share in its farmland, helping Ivory Coast become the world's top producer. (Today it provides some 40 percent of the world's crop.) But once the economy went sour in the 1980s, cocoa profits were more jealously guarded. Land disputes erupted, sparking xenophobic violence that became a 10-year civil war.

With the cessation of post-election violence last year and the ascendance of a new government, the war is supposedly over. But new attacks are still carried out between rival factions; thousands of people still live in refugee camps; and those who return to their destroyed homes swear vengeance. As always, cocoa production continues through the strife — but reconciliation and a true end to conflict may still be a long way off.