Slavery may have been officially abolished in 1865 in the U.S. (See: America’s Historical Documents) but it still continues in a subversive way in the world of chocolate.
West Africa accounts for about 80% of the world’s cacao used in commercial chocolate production. The Ivory Coast is a top producer with Ghana coming in second. Most of the farmers are forced to work the cacao farms and often don’t receive a fair wage for the very labour-intensive work of harvesting cocoa.
Money and social inequity are usually the culprits behind the use of forced child labour. Either young people living in poverty voluntarily come to work the farms believing they can earn money to support their families while others are just forced to work. Conditions for the workers are dismal and the farmers are often exposed to toxic pesticides. In the end it’s the big chocolate companies like Mars, Nestle, Hershey, Cargill and Cadbury’s that have the power and a sizeable part of the profit.
The International Cocoa Initiative aims to get rid of forced labour and the “worst forms of child labour” (Retrieved February 16, 2014 from the International Cocoa Initiative About Page: http://www.cocoainitiative.org/en/about-ici) through efforts made with its collaborating partners. The concept of fair trade is a common approach that supports ethical work standards and sustainable farming practices to benefit all workers.
I encourage you this Black History month to learn more about Fair Trade chocolate. As a self-proclaimed connoisseur of this controversial sweet stuff, I do declare that some brands are quite tasty and guilt-free. Look for the Fair Trade Certified or Rainforest Alliance Certified symbols.
My chocolate recommendations:
Divine in the U.K. has a partnership with the Kuapa Kokoo Co-operative in Ghana. They sell all manner of chocolate; baking, eating and drinking.
Camino of Canada is an Ottawa based co-operative that buys cocoa directly from the Conacado Co-operative in the Dominican Republic. Besides scrumptious chocolate products, (Mmm…the puffed rice and quinoa chocolate bar!!!) Camino also sells fairly traded coffee and sugar.
People were brought from West Africa to work as slaves on the cotton plantations and today it’s the people in Africa forced to slave on the cacao plantations.
More food for thought:
Kids in the West have to look both ways for traffic.
Kids working the cacao farms are there because of trafficking.
Kids in the West are told not to run with scissors.
Kids working the cacao farms are forced to use machetes.
Kids in the West are sprayed with sunscreen to protect them from UV rays.
Kids working the cacao farms spray pesticides to prevent loss of crops.
Kids in the West get chocolate for Easter, Christmas and Hallowe’en.
Kids working the cacao farms never usually taste the end product of the crop they are forced to harvest.
Kids in the West often get an allowance from their parents.
Kids working the cacao farms do so to financially support their families.
Kids in the West are forced to go to school.
Kids working the cacao farms are just forced to work.
Wells, T. & van der Gaag, N. (2006). The Bittersweet World of Chocolate. Oxford: UK. New Internationalist.