In celebration of recent Earth Day, many consumers once again have taken stock of what they consume and how it affects the planet. And for many, the idea of a slave producing chocolate for an American consumer or anyone for that matter, is a sickening thought. Yet, the practice still exists as boys in the Ivory Coast of West Africa, as young a nine are enslaved to harvest the valuable crop of cocoa beans. Ivory Coast produces approximately 43% of the world’s cocoa beans.
Why is it still happening as its been brought to the world’s attention through BBC and NGO’s Save the Children and Global Exchange? Because those who enslave children to harvest the crop make lots of money and the practice is mostly hidden. How can you as a consumer make certain you’re not knowingly supporting the trade? Shop for Fair Trade Chocolate.
What is Fair Trade? Simple. Fair trade happens when you buy from a producer who is fairly compensating the workers that pick and harvest the bean for mass consumption.This means that the worker can continue to work, as a free laborer,with a quality of life that benefits him or herself and their families and the companies that are in the business of yeilding a product for profit.
The good news is, according to the Fair Trade Organization, “Farmer organizations can build their business capacity through fair trade to engage with the cocoa industry’s largest buyers and negotiate equitable partnerships and trade conditions.” Although the practice of slavery hasn’t been fully eliminated, the practice of fair trade is making a considerable difference.
Perhaps the next thing to do to take action, is find out about the companies and their products that are promoting the best possible exchange between worker and owner. Maybe the most substantial change is beginning with historically long time producers of chocolate who have sealed the fair trade practice. Nestle, the world’s biggest chocolate company with the largest percentage of growers in the Ivory Coast, in 2009 began the fair trade practice.