Giving up chocolate was something on my mind for a few years. The decision to finally limit it to only Fair Trade came one day, when it finally sunk in that by consuming non fair trade cocoa products I was supporting child labour. Is chocolate that important to me that I should just abandon my moral integrity? I felt like eating chocolate had no value if a child had to be trafficked and then forced to work. It’s been 5 years now and I don’t regret it one bit.
When I hear the word cocoa (or chocolate), I think of this amazing food so valuable that it was once used as currency. I think of something that has great health benefits and long traditions, but I also think of slavery.
When cocoa was first discovered by the Olmec three thousand years ago, it was a luxury consumed by the privileged at the hands of the underclass and it has not changed even to this day.
The 70% of our cocoa comes from West Africa, where the conditions are the worst and where child slavery is still widely used. Over 2 million children were working on cocoa farms in Cote D’Ivoire and Ghana in the 2013/2014 season which had risen 21% from 2008/2009.
In Cote D’Ivoire, the number of children working under hazardous conditions rose 46% between 2009 and 2014, performing tasks that are illegal for children under 17 years old such as clearing land, carrying heavy loads, working long hours or at night, and exposure to pesticides.
The Harkin- Engel Protocol, an international agreement signed by the major chocolate producers in 2001 was supposed to help end the worst of child labour and other forced labour on cocoa farms, but 14 years later and the protocol has not had any effect.
Recently some chocolate producers made a commitment to use 100% sustainable cocoa by 2020, the largest processors Nestle and Mondelez have not made this commitment. Is this commitment just another Harkin-Engel Protocol? I suppose time will tell, but until then, I will continue to only consume Fair Trade cocoa.
The cocoa industry is riddled with problems and I have barely even scratched the surface with this blog. Here are some really great resources for learning more.
The Dark Side Of Chocolate – A documentary about child trafficking on the cocoa farms
Bitter Chocolate– An extremely good book written by Carol Off, talking about the history of cocoa and her experiences in Cote D’Ivoire and surrounding countries
Cocoa Barometer– Information about all the problems in the cocoa industry and all the traders and chocolate producers involved
And here are a couple really interesting videos… One is from a spoken word poet, Ian Keteku, who poem about chocolate gives me the chills every time I listen to it. The other is cocoa farmers trying chocolate for the first time, it’s kind of mind blowing.