In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Cocoa

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Journals
  • Origins, Development, and Main Regions of Cocoa Cultivation
  • Changing Dynamics of Cocoa Production and Factor Relations
  • The Changing Dynamics of Cocoa Marketing
  • Local Dynamics
  • Global Dynamics
  • The Impact of Cocoa on Capital Accumulation and Class Formation
  • Environmental Impact of Cocoa Production
  • Cocoa and Politics
  • Cocoa and Economic Shocks

African Studies Cocoa
Pius Nyambara, Takesure Taringana
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 June 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846733-0221


Cocoa production has, over the years since its discovery, assumed an important role in shaping the economic, social, and political structures of cocoa-producing countries, particularly in West Africa. Not only has it done so at a local level, but it has also defined the place of West African producing countries in the global economy. Over the years, cocoa evolved to become an integral part of many cultures. Generally, cocoa is produced in the tropical and subtropical regions. It is distinctly selective to climate and soil and is very susceptible to pests and diseases. This regional exactitude significantly shaped global cocoa marketing and consumption during the course of the evolution of the industry, in which cocoa was produced for markets in temperate countries. The dynamics that triggered and were triggered by cocoa production at all levels—locally, regionally, and globally—offer essential analytical pathways in approaching the development debate in Africa. Various scholarly works examine the origins and significance of cocoa production in West African societies, economies, and politics. They engage debates on the impact of cocoa production on capital accumulation, class formation, regional economic integration, gender relations, and the environment.

General Overviews

Ghana was the major cocoa-producing country in the world before the Second World War. Earlier works on cocoa during that period focus mainly on Ghana. Urquhart 1955 details the emergence and expansion of cocoa production in Ghana, farming systems, land and labor issues, and prospects for the development of the cocoa industry beyond the 1950s. Hill 1956 examines the peasant farming system into which cocoa production was introduced in Ghana. Gunnarsson 1978 discusses the Ghanaian cocoa industry from 1900 to 1939, focusing more on prices and structural change. Very few scholarly analyses exist for cocoa production in Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, and Togo among other cocoa-producing countries for this period. Muojama 2018 examines the Nigerian cocoa industry during the Great Depression from a world-system perspective. The period following the Second World War witnessed vast changes in the main centers for cocoa production, with Côte d’Ivoire becoming a major cocoa producer in the world by 1979, with a notable expansion of the industry in Nigeria, Cameroon, and Togo. Only then were scholarly works targeting these countries and their interaction with the global economy produced. Ryan 2013 deliberates the downsides of cocoa production in West Africa, focusing on a range of topics from corruption by political elites, slavery in cocoa farms, migration, and underdevelopment. On a more general scale, Wilson 1999 offers the general global trends in cocoa production and marketing, including the establishment of international institutions for the governance of the global cocoa trade.

  • Chauveau, Jean-Pierre. “Cocoa as Innovation: African Initiatives, Local Contexts and Agro-ecological Conditions in the History of Cocoa Cultivation in West African Forest Lands (c. 1850–1950).” Paideuma 43 (1997): 121–142.

    An account of the impulses leading to the development of cocoa production underscoring the entrepreneurial intuition of peasant farmers. A reading of this brings a closer analysis of the many arguments presented in the vent-for-surplus theory and its applicability in explaining the development of cocoa production among peasant farmers.

  • Gunnarsson, Christer. The Gold Coast Cocoa Industry 1900–1939: Production, Prices and Structural Change. Lund, Sweden: Economic History Association, 1978.

    A basic book that covers the earliest economic history of cocoa production in West Africa.

  • Hill, Polly. The Gold Coast Farmer: A Preliminary Survey. London: Oxford University Press, 1956.

    A groundbreaking micro-analysis of peasant cocoa farmers in Ghana that illuminates a wide array of themes relating to access to land and labor.

  • Muojama, Olisa G. The Nigerian Cocoa Industry and the International Economy in the 1930s: A World Systems Approach. Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scholars, 2018.

    A critical Wallerstenian examination of the Nigerian cocoa industry during the Great Depression.

  • Ruf, François, and P. S. Siswoputranto, eds. Cocoa Cycles: The Economics of Cocoa Supply. Cambridge, UK: Elsevier, 1995.

    Examines the cyclical boom-and-bust nature of cocoa supply as a major problem for the international cocoa industry and particularly for developing countries. It explains the powerful economic, social, and political factors which impact on the cocoa economy. It shows that the laws of cocoa supply are closely linked to environmental, ecological, and institutional factors. The book fills the gap in terms of non-English scholarship and research.

  • Ryan, Orla. Chocolate Nations: Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa. London: Zed Books, 2013.

    Written from an anthropological first-hand account on issues, this book is a sobering examination of the inequalities that exist between cocoa-producing and cocoa-consuming countries and how cocoa production has not done much to assist in the development of coffee-producing countries.

  • Urquhart, H. Duncan. Cocoa. London: Longmans Green, 1955.

    One of the earliest published books on cocoa in West Africa, focusing on the transformative impact of cocoa production on the West African peasantry and economy.

  • Wilson, C. Ken. Coffee, Cocoa and Tea. Wallingford, UK: CABI, 1999.

    A general overview of cocoa production and international trade.

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