How Fair Trade Chocolate Can Help
Africa’s Ivory Coast is home of at least half of the world’s cocoa. So doesn’t it make sense for major corporations such as Mars, Hershey, and Nestle to purchase their cocoa from there? Right. What makes no sense at all is the rising number of children being enslaved at these cocoa farms. Children ranging from ages eleven to fifteen, on average, are being used as laborers on the farms that produce the cocoa beans. As of 2005, approximately 286,000 children have been reported to be working on the Ivory Coast. Many of these children, around 12,000 to be exact, are said to have arrived by the means of child trafficking. Thousands upon thousands of children are being enslaved and “promised” money for working on these farms. But in reality, they almost never get paid. Although these stats are about six years old, I highly doubt that they’ve changed much: the average cocoa farm takes in about $30 USD to $108 USD per year for every member of the household.
Can you image being so young, so defenseless, and having to work in such terrible conditions as these children do? Can you image being promised to receive pay for a job, that will undoubtedly aid your devastatingly poor family back home; but never receiving any at all? Can you even possibly imagine being that eleven-year-old child, seeing your family suffering because of poverty-stricken causes that you have no control over whatsoever. You want to do more than help, you want to change the circumstances that you and your family are forced into. So an adult comes up to you, offers you a job working on the Ivory Coast. They promise you money, they promise too that you’ll be home shortly, they seemingly promise you the world. And seeing as there are no other options, you take the job. Your tiny hand grasps the adult’s firmly, and you start your mission to help your family. You believe in the kind adult’s promises of money, but all too soon, you’ll see that these promises where nothing but empty. And all too soon you find yourself working eighty (80) to one hundred (100) hours a week, and having nothing to show for it but an exhausted, beaten and starved body.
This is a tragic concept to grasp, believe me. Nothing is more despicable then using a child. According to Corpwatch.org (an organization that holds corporations accountable for their actions), after an immense amount of negative publicity in 2001, the major chocolate companies agreed upon creating a “voluntary protocol to eliminate child labor in West African farms.” The companies did this because they would rather not have a legislation form Congress requiring them to “label their products ‘slave free’”. Absolutely none of these corporations have qualified for that label. Strange, isn’t it? They simply won’t accept any responsibility for this atrocity. Rather, they pin the blame on the poverty-stricken farmers for “allowing the children to work” there. When they are the ones who are buying from these cocoa farms. And since the product is very cheap, they won’t waver in their decision–meaning that money is the root of this whole problem. The major chocolate corporations aren’t willing to pay more for fair trade labor, but they are willing to have their products be harvesting by enslaved children.
The good news is, now that we’re aware of this atrocity, we have the power to change it! We can advocate for the installation of fair trade, especially when it is concerning this region in particular. Fair trade provides “fair exchanges with farmers and artisans” alike. It makes certain that there is enough money to issue better working conditions, health-care, education for the children of the workers, and etc. You can find fair trade chocolate, and products too, online and in your local grocery store. So remain educated, spread the word, and make a difference!