Sweet Freedom!

For all you lovers out there….Tomorrow is Valentines Day, and everyone is going cocoa crazy…literally. In the US, sales for chocolate around Valentines Day were approximately $345 million (58 million pound sold), and around Easter showing almost half a billion dollars spent (71 million pounds spent). If that’s not insane, the last week of October shows Americans purchasing almost 71 pounds (weight, not the British currency) of chocolate…you can imagine how much that equates to in dollars! That’s a lot of cash spent on something that may not be all that sweet.

Here’s what I mean:

As highlighted in the recent documentary by CNN’s David McKenzie, as much as 75% of the world’s chocolate is produced in West Africa, specifically Ghana and Ivory Coast. Unfortunately, much of the labour used to work the cocoa farms are done by children. According to the Tulane Study, a projected total of 819,921 children in Ivory Coast and 997,357 children in Ghana work on cocoa-related activities. The documentary highlights two issues: one of child trafficking & child labour–two of the most talked about issues in our time.

Why doesn’t anyone stop this?

In fact, many people have tried to put an end to this. Just about 10 years ago, several of the worlds chocolate companies collectively signed the Harkin-Engel Protocol, an initiative started by U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel, D-New York, and Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, that would end child labour in the cocoa industry by creating a system to ensure products were child-labour free. Specifically, it called for self-reporting by African governments of improvements, establishment of an audit system, and poverty remediation programs to better aid West African farmers. All of this was to be complete by 2005. The protocol was later extended to 2008. To date, many of those changes have not been made. Recent reports show that over 90% of Ivorian cocoa farms are still using child labour. Most recently, the Hershey Company partnered with the RainForest Alliance and committed $10 million to West African farmers “to [improve] their trade and [combat] child labour”, to create a mobile platform for West African farmers to better learn best practices in cocoa farming, and will go towards a certification process to show Hershey chocolate is child trafficking free. Currently only 1-2% of their chocolate is certified as “child-trafficking” free. Time will only tell how this $10 million commitment will play out.

In the meantime, many are left wondering what can I do to take a stand? How can I help to make sure I don’t consume chocolate that wasn’t produced by a child? Check out our next blog for info on how to purchase fair trade chocolate in your city!

Want to know where I got my info or just want more info on slavery in cocoa farms?

Check out:

The Tulane Study
“Oversight of Public and Private Initiatives to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor in the Cocoa Sector in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana.” Payson Center for International Development and Technology Transfer. Tulane University. March 31, 2011 – Click HERE to read this study.

CNN Freedom Project Blogs

Stop Child and Forced Labour Cocoa Campaign

“Hershey, Trailing Behind Competitors, Gets “F” for Failing to Remove Child Labor from Chocolate.”

This entry was posted in West Africa, child trafficking, cocoa, sweet freedom. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Sweet Freedom!

  1. Rodney North says:

    Thank you for telling folks about this important issue. We (and others, like the International Labor Rights Forum) have working on this issue for years.

    Here our some more links where folks can learn more:
    * The documentary “The Dark Side of Chocolate” http://thedarksideofchocolate.org/

    * our summary of the situation http://www.equalexchange.coop/child-labor-in-the-cocoa-industry

    * Our selection of organic, Fair Trade chocolates: http://shop.equalexchange.com/category.aspx?categoryID=21

    * For Canadians: Look for Camino brand cocoa and chocolates: http://www.lasiembra.com/camino/

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