It’s International Chocolate Day! Did you know that one of our fastest growing projects in Gola is our work on rainforest-friendly cocoa production? In fact, in early 2019 we will be launching our very own chocolate bar made from cocoa grown within the Greater Gola forest area.
Commodities like cocoa can, in some cases, be drivers of deforestation, with areas of tropical forest being cleared to grow plantations of cocoa trees in order to meet demand across the world. But it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, cocoa grows best when surrounded by the shade of the other trees, the rainforest itself protecting the cocoa from the harsh sun and providing nutrients through the soil.
The Gola project is supporting cocoa farmers in the forest-edge communities to improve the quality and yield of their forest-grown cocoa, in order that they can generate a reliable income without having to encroach on the rainforest. At the same time, we are conducting research to show that cocoa grown in this way supports important forest biodiversity, including birds and primates, and can play a vital role in providing wildlife corridors between fragments of primary rainforest. Our ambition is for Gola farmers to be rewarded for growing cocoa in a forest-friendly way through the growth of a premium chocolate market which acknowledges the value of rainforest guardians like these Gola communities.
One of the ways we are hoping to get this message out there is through the development of an RSPB Gola Chocolate bar. I have had the really hard (‘cough’) job of working with chocolate makers around the UK to develop a recipe that showcases the unique flavour of Gola cocoa. This week, to celebrate International Chocolate Day, I decided to share the chocolate love and gave my colleagues a chance to sample some Gola chocolate for themselves.
In a potentially risky move, I set up a table with 8 unlabelled samples, 4 milk chocolate and 4 dark, which included 2 Gola samples (one of each flavour). I asked people to taste the samples and then vote for the ones they liked best. I am very relieved to say that the Gola chocolate proved extremely popular, with our Director of Conservation, Martin Harper, picking out the Gola milk chocolate sample as ‘Best in Show’. Now you can’t really get any better than that!
We are putting the finishing touches on the chocolate recipe this month and are hoping to have bars to share with you all in RSPB shops, online and in the catalogue from January. I’ll leave you to salivate over that for now, but if you would like to find out more about the Cocoa Project you can contact the team on GolaCocoa@rspb.org.uk.