In a little clearing in a Ghanaian forest, not far from where grapefruit-size cocoa pods hang heavily from the trees, 67-year-old Yaa Asantewaa breaks into song. Dressed in a threadbare skirt and purple T-shirt, she dances to her uplifting lyrics: “If you want to buy fine cloth — it is cocoa. If you want a meaningful life — it is cocoa.”

Farmers have been singing variations of this song — about how planting cocoa will make you rich — for decades in Ghana, the world’s largest producer after neighboring Ivory Coast. In the first decades of the 20th century, small farmers in West Africa rushed into cocoa farming as if it were the new gold.

Today, between them, produce nearly two-thirds of the global supply of cocoa, the main ingredient in worth more than $100 billion a year in sales. On Christmas Eve, nearly all the chocolate treats hidden inside stockings by the tree will almost certainly contain cocoa from one of those countries.

But Asantewaa knows only too well that the words to her song are fanciful. Cocoa has not made her rich.

Like most of the 2 million cocoa farmers in West Africa, she is extremely poor. She owns a tiny forest plot from which she harvests just four 140-pound bags of cocoa beans a year. For that, ashe would have earned about $400. The mud houses in her village of Wawase in southern Ghana have no electricity or running water.



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