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a little tin of cocoa and the powerful chain of economics

Posted: December 9 2016

How many times are you asked at the market (or anytime really) why people ought to support local, organic producers? Surely it happens often enough that you've got your own rote lines memorized.
As consumers are increasingly questioning the economic chain that makes up the production of things, from food to garments, we're reminded that this is not a new concern. In fact, it was at the core of the Indian Independence movement that saw India free itself from Colonial Britain.
Ghandi's observation of how small economic acts could be incredibly empowering and the need for local economies were well documented by his close associate J. C. Kumarappa. In his work Why the Village Movement Kumaarappa writes:

"If the raw materials for making cocoa are obtained from plantations on the West coast of Africa which use some form of forced native labour, are carried by vessels on sea routes monopolised or controlled by violence, manufactured in England with sweated labor and brought to India under favourable customs duties enforced by political power, then a buyer of a tin of cocoa patronises the forced labour conditions in the West coast of Africa, utilizes the navy and so partakes in violence, gains by the low wages or bad conditions of workers in England and takes advantage of the political subjection of India. All this responsibility and more also is put into a little tin of cocoa."

Austrian economist E.F Shumacher, who went on to write Small is Beautiful, drew a great deal of inspiration from the work of Kumarappa. Our friends over at the Schumacher Institute for a New Economics just let us know that J.C Kumarappa seminal book Economics of Permanence is available for free online thanks to some hardworking folks at the University of Maryland.
Read the full text here