Traffick Free Chocolate- Do You Support Child Labor?
Unwrapping a Hershey Bar and taking that first bite is one of life's little pleasures for me, always has been.I have had a passion for chocolate since I was small, inherited from my father and his compete addiction to all things chocolate. As I grew up I tried various sorts and kinds of chocolate and loved them all, in all of their many facets and forms from cocoa to the Godiva Chocolate my husband sometimes brings home for me.
So can you imagine my horror the first time that I heard rumors of child slavery in Cote D'Ivoire where a majority, nearly 43%, of the world's cocoa farms are located. And my horror grew as I learned that there were literally thousands of children working long 12-15 hour days, most of them under the age of 12.
Harsh Living Conditions
These children are literally slaves kept in the harshest of conditions.They are beaten, lockedt in small huts, and fed little, often existing on a diet of bananas and the cocoa beans they sometimes steal. This would be bad enough if the numbers were small, maybe in the hundreds but the truth is these children, these modern slaves number at least 12,000! Because of the nature of the issue the number of children held as slaves and working on cocoa farms could be much more than that, some groups estimate as many as 200,000. According to Stop The Traffik one person is trafficked across a border every minute.
As I write this my children are sleeping soundly in their beds. They are well fed, loved and clothed. Their emotional needs are met. Their physical needs are met. I look at their sleeping faces and I can't imagine them dirty, hungry and unloved in an environment of harshness and hopelessness.
Where do these children come from? Some are kidnapped and sold. Others are sold into slavery by desperatly poor parents. In the long run it doesn't matter how they got here, they have almost no chance of ever seeing their parents again, and they will work 80 to 100 hour weeks . The packs that they carry are often bigger that they are and create raw, open wounds on the children's shoulders. Medical care is nearly nonexistant.
Changing the World One Choice at a Time
One person can't change the world. There are so many needs that it is overwhelming. But we can change the things little by little by the choices we make everyday. Not buying chocolate from companies that buy from these farms will force them to rethink their policies as their profits drop. In the United States it is estimated that we pay over 13 billion dollars a year on our chocolate habit. Where we spend this money can have a powerful impact on child slavery and human trafficking in the chocolate industry.
The large U.S. Chocolate companies are acknowledging that there is a problem but also state that they can't do much about it since they don't own the plantations. Some companies are trying to put various trade agreements and sanctions in place to stop it. In 2001 the Chocolate Manufacturer's Association put together the Harkin-Engle Protocol which calls for the development of industry wide labor standards and voluntary certification, reporting and individual monitoring. The Protocol also implements an industry funded foundation to create and oversee programs related to this issue. The deadline was July 2005 and as of this writing there has not been much improvement. The huge chocolate industry is dominated by Hershey's and M&M Mars both whom get their cocoa from Ivory Coast farms. But they are not alone. The list of companies involved reads like a who's who among chocolate;
- Ben and Jerry's ( I was SHOCKED at this one!)
And it goes on. If these companies took initiative to change their policies others would follow. The more we let our preference for fair trade chocolate to be known, the more impact we will have on the large companies to change their policies.
But where can you get these products?
Where to Find Fair Trade Chocolate
Well it is getting easier every day to fnd Fair Trade Chocolate. Some of the retailers that are stocking the chocolate are :
- Dunkin Donuts
- Fred Meyer
- H E B
- Wild Oats
- Whole Foods
- Safeway (includes Tom Thumb)
- Trader Joe's
The Trans-Fair Company is the third party certifier of Fair Trade chocolate in the United States. By buying products with their logo you insure that the product was created without the use of forced child labor. It is estimated that only about 1% of the chocolate sales world wide are Fair Trade. What if that number began to steadily climb to 10%, 25% 50%? Of course companies would scramble to change their policies and practices to comply with Fair Trade standards. Organic cocoa is not produced in this area so it can be considered Fair Trade.
Next time you bite into that chocolate bar ask yourself if it was worth it. Chocolate tainted by the blood of children is not a delicacy, it is a travesty. How long did it take you to read this? How many people were trafficked at the rate of one per minute? Sobering, isn't it?
- Fair Trade USA | Every Purchase Matters
Information about fair trade products.
- ..:: Global Exchange :: Fair Trade and Socially Conscious Gifts Online ::..
An online store where you can get Fair Trade items