Bitter Sweet Dutch Chocolate Industry

Living in a city comes with lifestyles created for the functioning and identity formation of city actors and its citizens. They portray how modern one has become by undertaking that lifestyle. Indeed one such lifestyle is associated with chocolate. Occasions such as Valentine and Easter are linked with the giving of chocolates as signs of showing love.  The celebration of Valentine’s Day, Easter have been synonymous with the use of chocolates within Dutch communities.


Their use has created a certain lifestyle which identifies one as being from a city and also seen as a “modern” citizen. The use of chocolates shows how much you love or care about someone.  The increase of this lifestyle has led to the institutionalization of chocolatier competitions such as Benelux Chocolatier Competition organised in big cities of the North such as Brussels and Amsterdam.

Cocoa also known as Theobroma cacao meaning the ‘food of the gods’, originated from the rainforests of Central America where on “modern maps, southern Mexico Yucatan peninsula, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador and Honduras are located”(Bond, 2011). Bond explains that “The discovery and early use of cocoa are intimately linked with the ancient cultures of these areas – the Olmec’s (1500–400 bc), Mayans culture (250–900 ad) and later the Aztecs (ca. 800 AD to mid-sixteenth century)”.

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The Mayans first started using the cocoa as a drink for its elites to the extent that the beans were used as currency(Bond, 2011). This cash crop has maintained its importance in society from being cultivated in countries in West Africa to importing countries like the Netherlands. Being able to produce much more tonnes a year reflects in the foreign exchange a  country earns. The International Cocoa Organisation (ICCO), 2018 quotes the price of cocoa at $2386.23 per tonne as at the 16 of July 2018.

“The Netherlands used to be the world’s main importer of cocoa beans having lost the spot to Belgium in 2016 and the second largest cocoa grinder” Ministry of Foreign Affairs, CBI 2017.    The Dutch ministry of Foreign affairs states that the Dutch spend around 23 euros per capita on chocolate products in 2015 and the Dutch are noted to have increased exports of semi-finished cocoa products between 2014 and 2015 by 6%. The ministry also reports in 2015 that trend watchers in the Netherlands say ‘the Dutch increasingly want a high-quality chocolate and are willing to pay for that quality”. This makes chocolate making one of the urban lifestyles of luxury in the Dutch society. Being inquisitive enough, I decided to investigate where the cocoa used in Delft comes from. The city of Delft is noted to have some of the best chocolate firms in the Netherlands. Visiting the chocolate firm of Van Der Burgh I asked: “where does your cocoa come from “? The woman happily said “Ivory coast”.  This confirms the information by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, CBI 2017 that, The Netherlands imports roughly 85% of cocoa beans from West Africa and some from Latin America.

Main Suppliers of  Cocoa Beans to the Netherlands in 2O16


The city of Delft boasts of one of the best chocolate firms in the Netherlands which is not only handmade and of high quality, but also hand packaged. To Van Der Burgh, ‘chocolate must always be a present”. This ideology has enabled the firm to carve a brand for itself, having evolved from a small beginning to their present-day location in the historic city centre. Being a tourist destination that attracts all kinds of people from different countries.



Delft is increasingly becoming a market for different nationalities. The historic city centre boasts of hosting social events and markets that invites people of all walks of life. The citing of this small handmaid chocolate firm is not only patronised by the Dutch but all manner of people from different cultures. This brand has catapulted them into having cooperation with Michelin Star Chef Niven Kunz, who is seen as the best ‘vegetable chef” in the Netherlands. Again the company can boast of another cooperation with KLM enabling them to serve passengers with the best of chocolate by Van Der Burgh.



Africa during the colonial times produced raw materials for industries in the global north and such was Cocoa. As remnants of colonization, West African countries produce two-thirds of the world’s cocoa beans. With the Ivory Coast being the first and Ghana taking the second highest exporter according to the International Cocoa Organisation (ICCO) 2017, cocoa Barometer. For cocoa to be exported, it needs strategic preparation by both farmers and governments of the two countries to ensure maximum yields. In Ghana, the Ghana Cocoa Board borrows to buy the cocoa from the farmers for exports.


Before the cocoa is being exported, it needs to go through a process of fermentation for some days before drying. This fermentation is important to have a certain quality of beans. Traditionally designed mats made of bamboo serves as driers which makes it easier to fold when the rains are about to fall. The drying takes about two weeks before a farmer can sell it to the cocoa buyers in the various villages.


The coming of such an industry has encouraged migration from the northern part of Ghana to the southwestern region where the climate favours the growing of cocoa plants. The situation has led to the problem of encroaching originally forest and game reserves for the planting of cocoa trees. This region has been the highest cocoa producing region since 1985/86 crop season till date (Ghana Cocoa Board, 2017). This situation led to the involvement of child labour on cocoa farms which surfaced in the 2000s and become a worldwide issue for prominent business firms(Schrage & Ewing, 2005) According to Mighty Earth in 2017 that about 2.1m hectares and 820,000 hectares of forests were cleared in Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana respectively due to cocoa production over the decade.


Creating a city lifestyle in itself creates opportunities not only in that city but also for the countries from which it gets its raw materials.  To be able to maximize the benefits this endeavour brings, Countries in such situations should have had measures to regulate and monitor what happens in this industry. The lifestyle associated with chocolate in cities like Delft should create positive consequences for cities where the cocoa is grown in West Africa. The question is, must this lifestyle be at the expense of Forest and game reserves or innocent children drawn into child labour? After over a century of producing cocoa for this lifestyle living in the global north, should Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire be talking about Forest encroachment and child labour issues at this time?


About the Author:
George Blankson Appah is an Economist currently studying  Water Management And Governance at IHE-Delft, The Netherlands



Bond, T. J. (2011). The origins of tea, coffee and cocoa as beverages. Tea, cocoa and coffee: plant secondary metabolites and health. Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Oxford, 1-24.
Schrage, E. J., & Ewing, A. P. (2005). The cocoa industry and child labour. Journal of Corporate Citizenship(18).



The tourist guide holding the flag high of his travel agency confidently describes the history of the brick-lined water canal through his rehearsed sermonic narratives in Delft, Netherlands. The flash and the clicks capture the linear canals in the frame, occasionally spotting the ‘Mallard’ and the ‘Ruddy’ Duck. These Mallards swim during summer and skate during winters. Countless videos can be found on the YouTube showing the mother duck waddling with her babies through the Delft houses reaching to the celebrated Dutch network of water canals. The ducks, an intrinsic part of the canal culture, are very much hard to miss. This blog looks at the ‘overseas’ ducks acclimatizing to the Dutch way of life and in turn making the Dutch citizens accustomed to them!

Duck, who tamed the citizens

A foreign student like me, who has been living in Delft for over six months, finds the Mallards homogenous to these brick-lined canals. These ducks not just survive on the bread scraps fed by the people, but they are also familiar with the timing of their masters arriving with food. These wild urbanised ducks have tamed the citizens which keeps up to their meal routines. A quick search of these species throws out information of how they prefer to live in swamps and thrive on slimy worms and plant material from the surface of the pond. The frozen period does not worry them, as they are well taken care of by the citizens themselves. Such is the relation! This ownership, a sense of belonging by the citizens towards the ducks is surprising, especially when one realises that these ducks are not even from Holland, well they came from North America!

Travelling Duck

Duck, who travelled

The Ruddy Duck was introduced into Europe from North America by humans, and the aggressive nature of this duck made it known as an invasive species. The Mallard Duck too travelled to a great extent. Some conjectural history suggests that this duck was first seen in Egypt, later, the Spaniards got it into Europe, and rest is history. The Romans relished the roasted duck meat and continued rearing them. Not until the 19th century did people realize that eggs taste well too!

Today the canals of the Netherlands are incomplete without ducks in it. This invasive species affect the endangered local ‘white-headed’ ducks. It is close to becoming extinct. But many biologists explain that getting extinct is part of nature as well. At present, it is difficult to imagine living with dinosaurs, great mammoths and the dodo. It is actually the static-ness in nature what one must be worried about. There is even a chance of this Ruddy Duck to form a hybrid with the white-headed duck to something that Jelle Reumer coined “Ruddy white-headed duck”. In coming years, we might have an evolved species of the multi-coloured duck waddling fiercely in the man-made canals, while the Dutch citizens feed them with organic wheat bread. This fascinating foreign bird may then again travel around the globe proliferating the wetlands of Sundarbans in Asia to the Amazon Basin in South America. Imagine, this avian Dutch hybrid may soon pursue the route that their colonizer fathers took! Interesting isn’t it?

Hybrid Ducks


Duck, the brand

While we galore at this marvellous species making its presence felt throughout the country, it is interesting to compare this object with the rest that is adding to Dutch imageries, namely – Tulips and the Delftware. The Tulips itself is the reason for many global travellers to visit the Netherlands, and the blue-white porcelain-ware is a preferred souvenir. And like the ducks, these two are also imported! Tulips came from Turkey and Delftware from China, which is now commodifying the global tourism of this country. After some more digging, I found out that the Netherlands does not officially have any national bird, but after a democratic bird poll, the favourite that was picked was (black-tailed) Godwit, which is found in the polders. Once more, a man-made habitat ‘constructing’ the environment for this bird, (and again), not originally from Holland!


Duck, the language

This American duck does not portray as a misfit to the everyday spectators unless examined by a certain kind of biologist. Biologist, who is fighting against this globalisation wave, and trying to save the indigenous. Ironically, the masses that seem to have accepted the duck as a part of the culture also coined this phrase “vreemde eend in de bijt”, which literally means “a strange duck in the pack”. I suppose it is the adaptability of this foreign ‘strangeness’ that makes Dutch, Dutch, eventually making the Mallard and Ruddy Duck as their own.

i love strange ducks

Duck, the exotic object

K Piël from Amsterdam in his article which was a reply to a feature in the Trouw newspaper explained the Dutch attitude towards the ‘exotics’. The English exterminated the Ruddy Duck from the habitat in order to check the balance of its original species, whereas the Dutch urban ecologist Remco Slder feels we must accept the change in the eco-system along with modified species. He states, “We must accept man as a spread factor”. These contradictory attitudes coming from once-upon-a-time colonizers tells a lot of their current positionalities towards ‘nature’ (and how much the duck has situated itself in their day-to-day life!). The takeaway from this debate is what exactly is nature according to these two countries?

What constructs their imaginations?

Could the duck’s migration to the Netherlands have been avoided?

Is it unnatural for a foreign duck to adapt to manmade (dykes and canals) eco-system?

And then, is it strange for the citizens to celebrate its presence and habituate their life around it?


While we ponder at these questions, one thing is sure that these ducks have definitely travelled a long way to become Dutch, and so has the Dutch citizen adapted towards the global culture brought in by these foreign birds!


About the Author

Neha Mungekar is an urban designer and photo-journalist from India, currently studying Water Management and Governance in IHE Delft Institute for Water Education in partnership with UNESCO.



Heynen, N., Kaika, M., & Swyngedouw, E. (2005). Urban political ecology politicizing the production of urban natures. In In the Nature of Cities: Urban Political Ecology and the Politics of Urban Metabolism (pp. 1-20).

Holland: Your Official Guide for visiting Holland (2018) History of tulips in Holland. Retrieved from Accessed on 17th July 2018

Le Corbeiller, C. (1968). China into Delft: A Note on Visual Translation. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, 26(6), 269-276. doi:10.2307/325862

Marzluff, J. M. (2014, October 9). Birdland: Human sprawl is usually a threat to wildlife, but birds buck the trend. Can we help biodiversity take wing in our suburbs? Retrieved from Accessed on 17th July 2018

Omlet. (2018) Where Did It All Begin? Retrieved from Accessed on 17th July 2018

Reumer, J. W. F., Runia, A. P., & Museum, N. (2014). Ruddy Ducks. Wildlife in Rotterdam: Nature in the City: Natuurhistorisch Museum. (pp 54-60)

True Nature Foundation. (2015, November 6). National Bird of The Netherlands. Retrieved from Accessed on 17th July 2018

Chasing the mosquito


Aedes aegypti, water, and households: chasing the mosquitos in the Urban South

In 2014 and 2015 various outbreaks of dengue were reported in Mozambique. In countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, such as Colombia, there have also been outbreaks of dengue, zika and chikungunya. High percentages of Aedes aegypti, the mosquito that most effectively transmits these diseases, were found in cities such as Pemba, Maputo, Barranquilla, and Buenaventura. Dengue, zika and chikungunya, and their transmission vector, mosquito Aedes aegypti are tied to water as this mosquito lays eggs in stored water in or around households. After they breed they do not always parade through the city like other mosquitos, but they hide inside households, behind doors and corners (Higa et al., 2015).

Besides being tied to water, Aedes aegypti are also tied to climate change. Studies have warned of the possibility that climate change might increase the likelihood of diseases spread by insects in new areas , as temperature can affect the distribution of the mosquito and the effectiveness of the virus transmission and rainfall can increase surface water (providing breeding sites for more mosquitos) (Hunter, 2003). The pattern of dengue’s spread has changed through the years, as the mosquito has adapted to new processes of economic, political, and social change (Higa et al., 2015; Nading, 2012, 2014).

By staying close to humans and adapting its biting periods to those of human activities, female mosquitoes can develop and lay eggs in aquatic habitats easily found in cities (Beaty et al., 2016; Gubler, 2011). Stagnant or stored water buckets, tanks, drums, cisterns, flower vases, pools, tires, and other man-made containers provide the needed cultivation habitat, where larvae will develop shortly into adult versions of the mosquito. This project uses an ethnographic approach to study households, water supply availability, intermittence and distribution, and document politics and everyday community strategies to obtain and store water. It focuses on the interdependence between intermittent water supply, deficient solid waste collection, and the Aedes aegypti. It also takes into account the different legacies left by civil wars and rural crises on processes of unequal urbanization. It doing so, the project engages with multiple actors: local and national regulators and state officials, water services providers, non-governmental organizations, and the different communities in the cities’ neighbourhoods.


Beaty, B. J., Black, W. C., Eisen, L., Flores, A. E., García-Rejón, J. E., Loroño-Pino, M., & Saavedra-Rodriguez, K. (2016). The intensifying storm: domestication of Aedes aegypti, urbanization of arboviruses, and emerging insecticide resistance. In B.G. Health (Ed.),Forum on Microbial Threats. Global Health Impacts of Vector-Borne Diseases: Workshop Summary. Washington: National Academies Press.

Gubler, D. (2011). Dengue, Urbanization and Globalization: The Unholy Trinity of the 21st Century. Tropical Medicine and Health, 39 (4), 3–11.

Higa et al. (2015). Abundant Aedes (Stegomyia) aegypti aegypti mosquitoes in the 2014 dengue outbreak area of Mozambique. Tropical Medicine and Health, [Advance Publication] Released 2015/01/19.

Hunter, P. R. (2003). Climate change and waterborne and vector-borne disease. Journal of Applied  Microbiology, 94, 38S-46S.

Nading, A. M. (2012). DENGUE MOSQUITOES ARE SINGLE MOTHERS: Biopolitics Meets Ecological Aesthetics in NicaraguanCommunity Health Work.Cultural Anthropology, 27 (4), 572–596

Nading, A. M. (2014). Mosquito Trails: Ecology, Health, and the Politics of Entanglement. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Aedes aegypti, água e Agregados familiares: Perseguindo os mosquitos no Sul Urbano

Em 2014 e 2015, vários surtos de dengue foram relatados em Moçambique. Nos países da América Latina e do Caribe, como a Colômbia, também houve surtos de dengue, zika e chikungunya. As altas percentagens de Aedes aegypti, o mosquito que transmite mais eficazmente essas doenças, foram encontradas em cidades como Pemba, Maputo, Barranquilla e Buenaventura.
Dengue, zika e chikungunya, e seu vetor de transmissão, o mosquito Aedes aegypti estão associados à água, pois este mosquito coloca ovos em água armazenada dentro dos agregados familiares. Depois de porem ovos, os mosquitos nem sempre passam pela cidade como outros mosquitos, mas se escondem dentro dos agregados familiares, atrás de portas e cantos (Higa et al., 2015). Além de estarem associados à água, Aedes aegypti também está ligada à mudança climática. Estudos alertaram sobre a possibilidade de que as mudanças climáticas possam aumentar a probabilidade de doenças transmitidas por insetos em novas áreas, dado que a temperatura pode afetar a distribuição do mosquito e a eficácia da transmissão do vírus e as chuvas podem aumentar a água superficial (criando locais de reprodução para mais mosquitos) (Hunter, 2003).

O padrão de disseminação da dengue mudou ao longo dos anos, dado que o mosquito se adaptou a novos processos de mudança econômica, política e social (Higa et al., 2015; Nading, 2012, 2014). Ao ficar perto dos seres humanos e adaptar-se aos seus períodos de mordida às atividades humanas, os mosquitos femininos podem desenvolver e colocar ovos em habitats aquáticos facilmente encontrados nas cidades (Beaty et al., 2016; Gubler, 2011). A água estagnada, os baldes de água armazenados, tanques, tambores, cisternas, vasos de flores, piscinas, pneus e outros recipientes artificiais fornecem o habitat de reprodução necessária, onde as larvas se desenvolverão em pouco tempo em versões adultas do mosquito.

Este projeto usa uma abordagem etnográfica para estudar os agregados familiares, a disponibilidade de água, intermitência e distribuição e documentar políticas e estratégias comunitárias diárias para obter e armazenar água. O projecto se concentra na interdependência entre o abastecimento de água intermitente, a coleta de resíduos sólidos e o Aedes aegypti. O projecto também leva em conta os diferentes legados deixados pelas guerras civis e crises rurais em processos de urbanização desigual. Ao fazê-lo, o projeto envolve múltiplos atores: reguladores locais e nacionais e funcionários do Estado, provedores de serviços de água, organizações não-governamentais e as diferentes comunidades nos bairros das cidades.

Referências bibliográficas

Beaty, B. J., Black, W. C., Eisen, L., Flores, A. E., García-Rejón, J. E., Loroño-Pino, M., & Saavedra-Rodriguez, K. (2016). The intensifying storm: domestication of Aedes aegypti, urbanization of arboviruses, and emerging insecticide resistance. In B. o. G. Health (Ed.), Forum on Microbial Threats. Global Health Impacts of Vector-Borne Diseases: Workshop Summary. . Washington: National Academies Press.

Gubler, D. (2011). Dengue, Urbanization and Globalization: The Unholy Trinity of the 21st Century. Tropical Medicine and Health, 39(4), 3–11.

Higa et al. (2015). Abundant Aedes (Stegomyia) aegypti aegypti mosquitoes in the 2014 dengue outbreak area of Mozambique. Tropical Medicine and Health, [Advance Publication] Released 2015/01/19.

Hunter, P. R. (2003). Climate change and waterborne and vector-borne disease. Journal of Applied Microbiology, 94, 38S-46S.

Nading, A. M. (2012). DENGUE MOSQUITOES ARE SINGLE MOTHERS: Biopolitics Meets Ecological Aesthetics in NicaraguanCommunity Health Work. Cultural Anthropology, 27(4), 572–596.

Nading, A. M. (2014). Mosquito Trails: Ecology, Health, and the Politics of Entanglement. Berkeley: University of California Press.