Ah chocolate. One of life’s glorious pleasures.
But did you know the chocolate bar you’re eating may have been produced with child slave labor? Yes, my friends, child slave labor in cocoa production is an ugly truth on our planet.
Fair Trade? Huh?
Fair Trade is an alternative approach to conventional trade, based on a partnership between producers (those who farm) and consumers (those who eat). Fair Trade offers producers improved terms of trade—higher wages, credit, direct selling. Producers in turn guarantee that they farm according to strict economic, social and environmental criteria.
Fair Trade farmers organize themselves democratically into cooperatives. They receive a guaranteed minimum price and an additional premium for certified organic. They then invest their premiums in development projects like health care, new schools, training and organic certification programs in their local communities. Sounds fantastic, right?
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Even better, the Fair Trade certification system prohibits the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and limits the use of harmful agrochemicals in favor of environmentally sustainable farming. Importers purchase directly from Fair Trade producers, eliminating middlemen and empowering farmers to become competitive players in the global economy.
And, most importantly, forced child labor is strictly prohibited. It is a sick irony that the chocolates we hand out to little trick-or-treaters are being farmed by kids just like them in other areas of our beautiful world, particularly Sub-Saharan Africa.
Fifty Million children between 4 and 15 years of age labor in Sub-Saharan Africa…
In June 2009 the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released a study titled “Regional Initiative Combating Worst Forms of Child Labour on West African Cocoa Farms.” In it the OECD estimates the number of working children in Sub-Saharan Africa between the ages of 4 and 15 years of age to be 50 million, with 69 percent of those kids working in agriculture. Cocoa is the region’s largest export.
Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire are the biggest producers of cocoa in the region. Studies show that “nearly half of all children living on cocoa farms have been engaged in at least one hazardous activity. These include carrying heavy loads, spraying fertilizers and pesticides and cutting trees…”
Worst of all “some children have been trafficked from other regions of the country or neighbouring countries. This practice [of enslavement] is one that international conventions recognise as criminal.” Horrifying, isn’t it?
Here’s my video on the subject of Fair Trade:
The good news…
Fair Trade farms, slave labor is strictly prohibited and farms are inspected to ensure that Fair Trade standards are met.
I believe happy, healthy workers build stronger local communities and children in those communities grow up to be happy, healthy workers. So please give Fair Trade chocolate a try. I promise it’s yummy.
If you want to vote for a better world with your dollars, look for Fair Trade Certification. That’s why my kitchen stocks Fair Trade products! I love vegan chocolate pudding and hot chocolate—and both can be made with Fair Trade cocoa.
For more information on Fair Trade, please visit fairtradeusa.org, the leading third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the USA.