DID YOU KNOW?
A huge percentage of the world’s chocolate comes from small farms in West Africa, and unfortunately, many of those farms are using child slaves – in particular, the cacao-rich country Ivory Coast.
HOW IT HAPPENS
Child cocoa slaves – mostly boys – are trafficked into West Africa from neighboring countries.
Sometimes traffickers promise the boy money, bicycles, and a chance to give their parents a better life. Sometimes the boys’ families knowingly sell them.
But the boys arrive on farms to find these promises broken. Instead of a better life, they are thrown in small huts and forced to work against their wills for no pay. They sleep on wooden planks and endure brutal beatings when the bags of beans are too heavy for their bodies’ small frames.
The cacao beans these child slaves harvest get mixed together with other beans from around the world. By the time you bite into that delicious fudge brownie, slave beans and free beans have been blended too many times to know which chocolate is tainted with the blood of child slaves.
WHY IT HAPPENS
The problem has complex causes. Extreme poverty and low pay from the large chocolate companies force many farmers to cut costs to an extreme in order to survive. Corrupt government systems interfere with prosecution and determent of traffickers. And consumers demand the cheapest goods possible.
Violence has silenced the few people who research the cacao farms’ labor practices, as some journalists attempting to report on the issue have been captured and killed.
Fortunately, the solution is much simpler than the causes, and you don’t have to be a politician, social worker or lawyer to be a part of it. If consumers change their spending habits to reflect a hatred of the child slave trade, cacao farmers will stop trafficking young people.
That is what fair trade and slave-free chocolate can do. By buying certified fair trade or slave-free products, consumers can know that none of the chocolate they eat is coming from farms that benefit from child slavery. The more educated consumers become and the more they demand a change in their chocolate’s supply chain, the more larger companies will start to pay attention and see an incentive for change.
In addition, many fair trade and slave-free brands put their profits back into the cacao farms and communities. Instead of supporting child slavery, one candy bar can support education and sustainable farming in nations where children are at a great risk of trafficking.
These chocolate companies are known to use slave-produced chocolate: M&M Mars, Hershey, Kraft:(including Cadbury, Nabisco, Toblerone), Nestlé, General Mills (including Häagen Dazs), Lindt and Sprungli (including Ghirardelli), Unilever (including Breyer’s Ice Cream), Godiva
THE BEST OF SLAVE-FREE CHOCOLATE
The following companies all sell slave-free chocolate and give portions of the proceeds back to the farming communities. They include: Clif Bar, Divine Chocolate, Equal Exchange, Cloud Nine, Dagoba Organic, Denman Island, Gardeners Candies, Green and Black’s, John and Kira’s, Kailua Candy, Koppers Chocolate, L.A. Burdick, Montesuma’s, NewLeaf, Newman’s Own, NunBetter Chocolates, Omanhene Cocoa Bean, Rapunzel Pure, Shaman, Sweet Earth, Taza, Endangered Species and Theo Chocolate.
WHERE TO BUY SLAVE-FREE CHOCOLATE
Slave-free chocolate bars, baking cocoa, and hot chocolate mixes are all readily available. The following locations are a good place to start, but there are many other places that sell delicious, slave-free chocolate.
1. Your neighborhood grocery store, usually in a distinct section on the candy aisle
2. Whole Foods, or a local organic market near you carries fair-trade, organic and slave-free chocolates
3. Global Exchange, the leading online supplier of fair-trade products
4. Amazon.com sells organic and fair-trade chocolate; search by product or brand
IN BUYING CANDY, LOOK FOR THESE LABELS:
Their stamp on a chocolate product means that there are better conditions for workers and the risk of child trafficking into that cocoa farm has been reduced.
For more information go to www.themarginalized.com.