The Harmattan, a hot arid trade wind that blows south out of the Sahara in winter, picks up and transports such a large volume of dust that the air in Western Africa sometimes becomes clogged enough to block out the sun for days at a time. It’s as though a dry red cloud has landed on earth. People itch. They cough. Their noses bleed.
This year the Harmattan is particularly fierce—bad news for cocoa, one of the region’s premier crops. The politically malignant Cote d’Ivoire is the world’s largest cocoa grower, harvesting 40% of global production, and the last thing this country needs is more ill wind. Rain is expected this week, which would give some relief. There’s also the accidentally symbiotic matter of global economic turmoil: people, these days, especially Europeans, are eating less chocolate.