the writer Samy Manga signs a virulent charge against the “white men” who exploit the African cocoa growers

In “Chocolate – the bitter taste of cocoa farming”, the Cameroonian novelist Samy Manga dissects the pernicious system which makes the cultivation of cocoa, the origin of chocolate so popular in the West, a sometimes fatal trap for farmers who live in Africa.

Chocolate – enjoyed during Christmas, Easter or simply for pleasure in rich countries – is the result of hard work by farmers, mainly on the African continent which is home to the largest cocoa producers. Abéna, the hero of the Cameroonian writer Samy Manga in “Chocolate – The Bitter Taste of Cocoa Culture” (Ecosociety) which could be its alter egoknows something about it.

Abéna was rocked by this culture thanks, or rather, because of the exploitation of his grandfather who extended, when he had “barely 10 years old”, on “four soccer fields” in central Cameroon, central Africa. He will have thus been the witness of the ravages of the trade of the precious bean on his native land while it rhymes with sweetness under other skies. Unsuspected pleasure for those who produce this raw material.

A bean produced in suffering

From the clearing of the forest, through the spraying of fungicides on the plantation – of which he could observe the damage on the farmers and the indifference of the village authorities –, to the sale of the beans “sweat and blood” to “white men”, Abéna is at the forefront of a well-oiled operating system. First victims: the farmers. At the other end of the chain, the multinationals, including the Swiss giant Nestlé, owner of the Cailler brand, make for rain or shine. They are singled out despite their initiatives to limit, for example, child labor. Because the vicious circle described by Abena is far too devious to generate positive results.“In every possible way, chocolate money has violated most of the conventions that are supposed to regulate the cultivation of cocoa,” strikes Samy Manga.

In addition to the socio-economic damage caused by the exploitation of cocoa, the culture also constitutes an ecological threat because it is responsible for deforestation in the producing countries. As confirmed again in 2021 by the forest and wildlife inventory of Côte d’Ivoire, the world’s leading producer of cocoa, its cultivation is the first responsible for deforestation. This West African country has been losing an average of 3% of its forest cover every year since 1986.

exorcise by verb

The anti-colonialist and anti-capitalist prose of Samy Manga, interspersed with equally committed poems, is widely documented and takes up the observations that researchers, NGOs and international organizations have been making for years. The singularity of the approach of the Cameroonian writer and activist, residing in Switzerland, is the description of an anger that swells and rises in power. Born in the mind of a child, the feeling is structured over three decades and as Abena learns. “Great White Businessmen” and their local accomplices, who demean the planters, are the object of all his invectives which alone justifies the original violence of a system which crushes the planters and by extension their relatives, like cocoa beans, to obtain chocolate .

The education of the apprentice planter Abéna continued far from the fields, in the political capital of Cameroon, Yaoundé. For them, the goal was simple: “lift them out of poverty and, even more, the misery of cocoa”. And no question for Abena of “carrying on the painful legacy of cocoa planters like his grandfather”. To achieve his goal, the hero of Samy Manga worked to decipher “the tyranny of green gold”. As if “bark child”, fascinated by traditional medicine, hoped, like a healer, to chase away the pernicious evil that gnaws at the cocoa planters, self-chained by their “servitude” deliberate.

Chocolaty – The Bitter Taste of Cocoa Cultureby Samy Manga (Ecosociety, Parcours collection, 136 p., €14)

Extract : “Hearts and muscles on the lookout, their ears strained and their sexes bandaged at the slightest snoring of a car which was born in the valley coming from the city. Like a band of slaves impatient to leave the plantations for a lapse of time in the country happiness, they were about to implore the generosity of the masters of the world and the kindness of the money-makers with great economic power. Yes, they, the bean planters, were waiting for the buyers exactly like accursed beggars in search of alms”. (Chocolate, p.27)

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