The chocolate industry is a major driver of the economies of many of the Ebola-stricken countries in West Africa: 70 percent of the world’s cocoa supply comes from the region. So with the dangers continuing to mount in that part of the globe, some of the biggest international chocolate producers are lining up to help.
The World Cocoa Foundation, an organization that works with both cocoa farmers and chocolate companies, is launching the Cocoa Industry Response to Ebola Initiative, to raise money for supplies, hospitals and treatment in West Africa. Though the initiative won’t officially be announced until tomorrow, companies such as Nestlé, Mars and others within the organization of more than 100 companies have reportedly already pledged money earmarked to support work by the Red Cross and Caritas Internationalis in the area.
According to CNN, Nestlé alone has 6,300 African employees, many based in West Africa. And travel restrictions are keeping workers from getting where they need to be. For instance, Ivory Coast—the world’s top cocoa producer—closed its borders with Guinea and Liberia. This measure has prevented Ebola from spreading to the country, but it has also meant that migrant workers are unable to help with this year’s harvest.
“The land has not been tilled to plant,” Grub Street quotes a UN official as saying. “The next crop will not be ready. We won’t have one, and we see a food crisis already.”
In the big scheme of things, a chocolate shortage pales in comparison to the issues around public health, travel and quality of life that Ebola has brought front and center. But it’s a powerful reminder of just how interconnected a world we live in today.