One of the uglier realities behind African-grown cocoa that’s processed into chocolate is that it’s produced through child labor.
With that in mind, San Luis Obispo resident Tom Neuhaus has made it one of his life’s goals to de-colonize cocoa. Toward that end, since 2003 he has regularly been visiting countries such as Ghana as part of his Project Hope and Fairness.
The Cal Poly professor and owner of Mama Ganache Artisan Chocolates in San Luis has broadened his consciousness-raising campaign by holding fundraisers, seeking donations and recruiting students to travel to Africa for first-hand experience of the cocoa trade, while helping to build infrastructure like schools.
Two of those young men — Garrett Morris, 21, and his brother Brandon, 24 — are now on the road hoping to raise $50,000 for Project Hope and Fairness during the next eight weeks as they pedal bicycles 3,500 miles across the U.S., from sea to shining sea.
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Starting off from Astoria, Oregon, they’ll follow the Columbia River north to Idaho, then loosely follow the trail blazed by Lewis and Clark, skirt the northern part of Yellowstone and the brunt of the Rockies, and end up on Staten Island, where the brothers have family living near the Verrazano Bridge.
“People are familiar with the route and meet up with others who are trekking,” says Brandon. By checking the website Warmshowers.org, Google Maps and Fair Trade, the two have found homes that will let bicyclists stay for free; however, adds father Eddie Morris, for most intents and purposes, their bikes will be their homes.
That means carrying their food (it’s estimated that each will burn about 4,000 calories per day), fuel, sleeping bags and any number of other items they’ll need.
With a year left at Cal Poly, Garrett has known Neuhaus for several years years as a member of the nonprofit Fair Trade Club and as his teaching aide in nutrition classes. Two years ago the two went to Africa for a couple of weeks. During that time, they visited five cocoa villages and decided to help build a cocoa study center in Ekona, Cameroon, hence the $50,000 goal; it will be used to not only help build the center for students, it will also help defray student travel costs.
“The cost of going there is so high,” says Neuhaus. “It costs $2,300 to get there and then an additional $2,000 while there.
“Universities want students to travel, with Australia, Spain and Italy having been the main destinations. We’re pushing the Third World; you can’t place a frog on a package and say it’s hunky-dory. We want to get young people into the whys of the world and start changing things, getting people aware.”
How to help
To follow the Morris brothers, or to donate to their cause (they’ve already raised about $1,000), check their website at hopeonabike.webs.com, which links to Tumblr and their daily blogs.
A Project Hope and Fairness fundraiser is set for July 20 from 6 to 9 p.m. at Pear Valley Winery. Five courses of gourmet dishes will be paired with five different wines. The cost is $50; checks may be sent to Fundraiser, Project Hope & Fairness, 4104 Vachell Lane, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401.