Does that box of luscious chocolates bear the taint of slavery?
I eat an ounce of dark chocolate daily, for its antioxidant properties. And frankly, because I love chocolate. These chilly winter nights, my family asks me for hot chocolate milk, and I’m happy to simmer some up for them. But I go to a certain amount of trouble to get Fair Trade chocolate. (See Green Prophet on Palestinian farmers and Fair Trade here.) Or organic chocolate. Because I don’t like the taste of blood.
Alright, it’s metaphorical blood. But according to the Global Exchange human rights organization, in plantations in Ghana and the Ivory coast, where 70% of the world’s cacao is grown, children as young as nine work 12-hour days. They spray crops with pesticides and no protection from the poison. They cut cacao pods off the bushes and clear undergrowth with machetes. Machetes are long, heavy knives used for chopping through vegetation, shown in the photo above.
Dangerous in little hands.
The kids carry heavy loads for long distances on their backs.
They’re beaten if they don’t move fast enough.
Estimated number of exploited children working in the cacao industry: 284,000, of whom 150,000 were kidnapped or sold into slavery by their desperate families. These numbers are from 2001.
Read this article on the Huffington Post to learn more about exploitation of children in the cacao industry and what you can do about it.
If you can’t find chocolate with a Fair Trade certificate, buy organic. Plantations using child/slave labor use fungicides extensively and so organic is most likely slavery-free.
Buy the DVD of the movie The Dark Side of Chocolate, or find out where there’s a viewing. It’s an undercover documentary from 2010 showing how enslaved children work and survive in the Ivory Coast cacao plantations. The movie doesn’t show in movie theaters – easy to think that the big candy companies, Nestle, M&M Mars, and Hershey, would like to see it suppressed.
However, you can see the trailer, which is shocking enough, here.
The writers and directors of the movie also run a Facebook page with up-to-date information on the issue of child labor and chocolate.
This Valentine’s Day, buy your sweetie Fair Trade or organic chocolates – with no bitter aftertaste. Or make your own delicious chocolate-nut clusters with the easy recipe in Green Prophet’s next food post.
More on Fair Trade from Green Prophet:
Photo of child laborer from The Dark Side of Chocolate on Facebook.
Miriam Kresh also writes a food blog.