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The Bitter-Sweet Taste of Chocolate

Contributed by Marina Hethke, Kassel University - Greenhouse for Tropical Crops - Steinstraße 19 - D-37213 Witzenhausen

Supported by Volunteers of the Fair-Trade-Movement (Eine Welt Laden e.V.) the Greenhouse for Tropical Crops, Witzenhausen, Germany, offered an education unit for schools about cocoa and its products.

The Objectives

Tropical crops are not only interesting because of their botanical and ecophysiological aspects, but also because of their social and political contexts. This program is a first step to increase consciousness and sensibility towards these problems.

Why Cocoa?

Nearly everybody loves chocolate - but who knows about the long journey from the cocoa bean to the products we use every day? Or about the relationship of cocoa with the tropical rainforest? And who cares about the cocoa planters' lives and problems? Chocolate as a very well known product is a suitable vehicle to catch children’s interest concerning the economical and social importance of a tropical plant.

The Program

Two months before starting this programme a portable case including texts and illustrative aids was made available to teachers. Most of the pupils joining the event were prepared on some aspects of cocoa production and trade. According to age and preparation the group could house different parts of the programme

A guided tour through the tropical lowland areas of the Greenhouse. The children could see bearing cocoa trees and feel the hot and wet climate of a tropical rainforest

A ´tropical pot-pourri table` - As an introduction a table containing lots of every-day products was presented. Five items without any connection (either content or packing) to the tropics had to be found.

A small exhibition - A developing aid organization lent out information boards about cocoa cultivation and trade. A quiz motivated the visitors to read the text.

Games opened a discussion about the World´s development problems, e.g. in a role play the proceeds of a bar of chocolate - consisting of 18 paperboxes - had to be divided between production and trade. Just one box or 1/18 of the price was left for the cocoa farmer.


Even in Botanical Gardens with limited resources events for schools can be created and carried out. Let´s face our task and look for opportunities to enhance environmental education!