First, this month’s editorial doesn’t even come close to Jonathan Swift’s satirical essay about Ireland solving its hunger crisis by serving up babies to the British aristocracy. The only connection here, besides the headline, involves another bona fide crisis: Haiti.

Since the Jan. 12 earthquake disaster, billions of dollars have poured into Haiti to try to alleviate the death and destruction that ravaged this poor island country. The frantic efforts to save lives captured everyone’s hearts and minds during that first week, the dramatic images of young and old clinging to life under collapsed buildings still resonating amongst us when we recall the event.

As the weeks passed, headlines of another nature supplanted news from Haiti, the recovery becoming more mundane, but no less important.

Later this month, many of us will walk the aisles at this year’s Sweets and Snacks Expo in Chicago, May 25-27. As we do, I just wanted to remind candymakers that the Haitian crisis hasn’t disappeared.

I realize that most of us have already “given at the office,” donating funds through one organization or another. In doing so, we’ve moved on and gone back to the task of doing what we do, making products that spread joy around the world.

As Haiti grapples with recovery - and how best to manage the aid that continues to pour into the country - I’d like to offer up a permanent long-term solution: build back up Haiti’s cocoa crop. 

Like many of the Caribbean, Central and South American nations, Haiti’s history of growing cocoa goes back to the 1600s. That tradition continued throughout Haiti’s turbulent history.

Today, there are 20,000 cocoa growers in Haiti. In 2008, 4,450 metric tons were harvested, with 3,800 going toward exports. Cacao trees covered an estimated 10,400 hectares in 1987, and they yielded 4,000 tons of cocoa a year.

Compare that with the neighboring Dominican Republic, which harvested more than 10,000 tons, and one senses there’s room for improvement. As a recent Miami Herald article (March 30, 2010) by Niala Boodhoo pointed out, cash crops work best in employing and enriching poor communities. As Theo Weiner of the Geo. Wiener S.A. company, one of the island’s largest exporters, points out in the article, “Cocoa is the easiest way to get large amounts of money to people.”

Weiner, through his company, and Washington-based not-for-profit CNFA, is involved in a program designed to double the current cocoa crop, which would subsequently also double farmers’ incomes.

Currently, Haitian cocoa farmers produce about 330 lbs. of cocoa for every two-and-a-half acres; the global average hovers around 990 lbs. for the same acreage. Obviously, there’s room for growth.

B. K. Matlick, an agronomist from Hershey, Penn., who’s been instrumental in helping cocoa farmers improve their crop, points out in the Miami Herald article that the cocoa tree has “got money on it.

“Cocoa is like a money pump,” he states.

Although modest in scope, helping cocoa farmers in Haiti improve their crop delivers a sustainable and long-term solution for the country’s recovery. It’s in the industry’s best interests to help Weiner and others involved in Haiti.

And unlike Swift’s proposal, the farmers in Haiti wouldn’t suffer any ill effects by sampling their crop.