On the way home from fetching Kirstin and Megan - my two younger cousins from school. Kirstin, the eldest announces that she no longer eats chocolate! As you can imagine it was followed by a gasp and a " what on earth are you thinking" and then silence.She begins to explain her reasons and the main one being that her friend had recently given a speech in English class informing them about the children slave labour in the cocoa fields. For a chocolate lover like 99% of the female population on the planet to stop indulging in our much needed cocoa moments it had to be serious, very serious. I started to investigate and think about it with a critical mindset, hoping to possibly find her a cure for her distate for chocolate - I found out so much more than a cure.
West Africa's produces 70% of the world's cocoa. The Ivory Coast produces 40% of West Africa's cocoa, with the main supplies going to our favourite chocolate sources Cadbury, Nestle and Hershey's amongst others. It is well known that the Ivory Coast, Ghana, many central South American and African countries where cocoa is grown are some of the most poverty stricken, third world, undeveloped countries. Children are dying of starvation daily. This terrible truth is why many children are forced into slave labour with the promise and hope that they can feed themselves and their families. Many of the children start to work in the fields from the age of 8 years old. Sadly many of these children are also bought and sold across borders - a very real form of slave trade in today times.
Through westerner's eyes that has been educated and never ever had to labour in a field, I see this as shocking!! But having been on outreach into Mozambique experiencing poverty amongst the people in the community. I am also able to look at the issue through different eyes. These children have almost nothing, many only have one or two sets of clothes - shoes are a luxury. A family may have a small piece of land that they can produce a few crops. If these crops don't produce food it is an all-or-nothing situation. I hate to think about how many children have to go to bed daily with empty stomachs. This is a reality in a poverty stricken country. Now as an 8 year old in that situation, where there is no opportunity for education as there is no educational system for you to attend. Your mother and father and their fathers have all worked on the plantations all their lives. You have never known or seen anything different. You are hungry and your family needs you to bring in a much-needed wage, would you mind working on a cocoa field? I have to wonder if these children see it as abnormal or as child abuse or if they see it as an opportunity. Culture is very different in cocoa producing countries.It may be a very honourable thing to go out and work for your family. To me it seems as crazy as sending your son off to war in our society, but there is honour for those sons that go - in doing it for your family and country. Its a cultural norm, it is expected.
I still don't agree with the child slave labour on any level. But I would like to look at who are the real child abusers here. Is it not the government that fails these children by not creating a educational system to give them a real chance for an opportunity in life. Is it not the world's fault for standing by and not assisting these countries develope themselves optimally. I am not saying just with money but with life skills to improve their situation and lives.
We can all start by buying only FairTrade chocolate. If more of us would support the Fair Trade brands, the suppliers who have to meet the markets needs, forcing our favourite brands like Cadbury and Nestle to become FairTrade. By buying FairTrade you not only meeting your chocolate fix needs gulit free, you are ensuring that the labourers in the cocoa fields are getting a fair wage and there is local community developement happening with the profits made from the fields. Supporting Fair Trade farmers that don't abuse children for slave labour. You will be putting your money into business that creates a work opportunity for many families - making positive impact on their communities.
It does not help we all stop eating chocolate, this would only create a situation where even more people have no hope or way to earn a honest wage. We just need to choose what chocolate is actually good ethically. And make a statement - if its not Fair Trade its not worth it