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Posts Tagged ‘slavery’

Tell the chocolate industry to sweeten up

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

Cadbury New Zealand has announced plans for its Dairy Milk chocolate to be Fairtrade by Easter 2010.  Cadbury’s decision to use Fairtrade cocoa in its popular dairy milk chocolate bars is a compelling example of the difference consumers have made to the plight of poor farmers in the developing world.

However, there is still a long way to go. Oxfam encourages you to:

* Email Cadbury to congratulate them and ask them to switch their entire line to Fairtrade
* Email Whittakers to encourage them to follow suit

For more info on the issue, go here.

Right the wrongs with chocolate

Friday, September 25th, 2009

Cassandra Scott-Laffey

fair-trade-small1When we think of child rights, chocolate is not the first thing that springs to mind. But, when you stop and consider how that chocolate got on our shelves, you will find that child labour plays a large role.

Seventy percent of the world’s cocoa comes from West Africa where thousands of children are forced to work on plantations. These children, most of whom are under 14 years old, work 12 to 14 hour days in harsh conditions; they are often beaten and abused, fed one measly meal a day and paid just a few cents.

They are being denied a proper life, an education and a chance to have a say in the matter. They are being denied their rights!

Why is this allowed?
There is a huge demand for chocolate – we LOVE the stuff. Billions of dollars are spent on it worldwide every year!

Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire) is the biggest producer of cocoa, with over half a million cocoa farms. Every year, thousands of children are forcibly taken from their homes and sold into slavery to work on the plantations. This problem is particularly bad in Ivory Coast as years of corruption and civil war have resulted in two factions fighting each other, the breakdown of families and increasing poverty.

While I am happy munching on a piece of chocolate, the children working on the cocoa plantations clearly do not receive a standard of living that anyone would be happy with.

What is being done?!
Major companies in the chocolate industry, such as Cadbury and Nestlé, have been challenged about child slavery, yet have been slow in responding. In the past, they argued that little could be done because there was no way of telling where the cocoa originated. But this was just an excuse!

Attempts have been made to improve the situation. For example, in the US, legislation was passed that tried to implement a labelling system for chocolate, which then led to the establishment of the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI). One of the ICI’s responsibilities is to ensure children are not being exploited, thereby eventually ending child labour in the industry. Although good in theory, it has yet to have any real impact.

There are some positive things happening though - Cadbury’s dairy milk chocolate in the UK will be fairtrade certified by the end of the year. With your help things can only get better from here.

Guilt-free chocolate
Fair trade ensures that communities get a decent percent of the money earned from selling their produce, and therefore the producers get to live happier and healthier lives. By receiving a decent wage, people can provide food for their families, and the whole community becomes wealthier, meaning they are able to provide for and develop future generations.

The rising availability of fair trade products has been raising awareness about issues like human rights abuses and child slavery. As demand increases for things like fair trade chocolate, it becomes even more accessible, meaning people actually get a say in where their chocolate comes from. Fair trade provides consumers with a choice, so buyers can take a bite out of their chocolate without the bitter taste of guilt.

Want to take action Check out the ideas in That’s not right! also by Cassie Scott Laffey.

Take it Personally

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

take_photo1Anita Roddick of The Body Shop fame has created a work of art with this book, putting images and phrases together, such as, fashion and victim which show us how we have lost perspective of the real world.

Roddick has always tried to conduct business in a personal way, but has found that the business world is dominated by the faceless, and relentless advance of globalisation. This is a world of secret, impersonal committees, who do not take their social responsibilities seriously. The focus is on profit. Without more openness and democracy, she says, the world will be unable to deal with the serious crisis brought on us by globalisation.

You can join our library and get books and DVDs out for Free!

Trigger Issues - Diamonds

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

By Nikki van der Gaag

tiffanysHow many other symbols of love also fuel violent conflict? At the same time as sparkling innocently in a footballer’s ear, the gems fund some of the worst fighting in Africa.

Diamonds are not as rare as we think and they have been mined by virtual slave labour, so why are they so expensive? These simple pieces of carbon have, over centuries, turned into the ultimate ‘rocks’: desired, possessed, traded, stolen, smuggled and, literally for many, ‘to die for’.

You can join our library and get books and DVDs out for Free!

Even one child is one too many

Friday, April 17th, 2009

By Megan Elder

h_trafficing2What are you doing right now? You might be sitting on a bus, or eating lunch, or at school. You are probably surrounded by friends, teachers and your possessions. Imagine for a minute a dark, dirty, cramped room with an equally dirty mattress sitting in a corner. Imagine being taken from your family by someone you trust, with the promise of a better life. Imagine being drugged, beaten and raped. Imagine having abortions performed by an unlicensed doctor. Imagine getting AIDs. Then imagine all this happening at age 10.

Child prostitution isn’t a myth. It isn’t a profession. It can be a death sentence. As spoken by Sita, a 15 year old girl sold into prostitution in Mumbai, “I would not wish that life on an enemy. It was pure hell.” And it isn’t just happening in faraway developing countries The UK, America and Russia are all thriving child prostitution destinations. Yes, destinations. As in, wealthy men from other countries, even from New Zealand, are not just travelling to Mumbai or Bangkok to find child prostitutes; they are going to Birmingham and Moscow. This is a HUGE problem on a global scale. In fact it is such a huge problem, involving so many people, that it is really hard to imagine how this affects the individuals.

Carol* from Zimbabwe.

Carol was orphaned and living with her grandparents, with her brothers and sisters. One day, when she was 16 years old she was on her way to school and was approached by two men who offered her a job. Carol was tempted by opportunity to help out her grandparents and support her siblings, so she accepted the offer.  Carol left with the men and they took her to a place where they raped her, then she was drugged and placed in a coffin and crossed the Zimbabwean border. When she arrived in South Africa she was taken to a brothel and forced into prostitution.  She was not allowed to go anywhere, she was threatened and abused, and was under constant lock and key. After a few months she was taken to Mozambique where the abuse continued. Here Carol contracted HIV.

Source| Oasis Zimbabwe (*not her real name)

Surrounded by all this abuse, disease, poverty, and even death, how do these young slaves cope? Fact is, sometimes they don’t. But many have spirit and faith, which keeps them alive. They know that one day they’ll escape from their captivity. Some girls with these unbreakable spirits arrive at the brothels and refuse to have sex with the clients. But the brothel owners use many techniques to break the girls’ spirits. Lighted cigarettes are pushed into their skin, they are beaten with wooden sticks, metal rods, branded, and they are threatened with death or being buried alive. You girlstatue_photomight ask, with these terrible conditions, why don’t they try to get away? Some do, like Jyoti, an Indian girl taken at age 7 and rescued age 16. But it’s incredibly difficult to run from the only life you’ve known since you were 7. Especially if you are in bad health and have no education, no family and no other job prospects.

However, there is hope. Organisations such as the Youth Partnership Project, ECPAT International and Stop the Traffik and inter-governmental agencies such as UNICEF are all dedicated to fighting child exploitation. Each play a part in trying to stop child trafficking, prostitution and slavery. From lobbying governments to strengthen the laws which protect children, to providing support to survivors of the sex industry, they are working with the children, for the children. And they’re making a difference.

Sokha* from Cambodia

Poipet in Cambodia is known as the ‘Wild West’ of South East Asia because of its roaring sex trade and gambling scene. People go there to buy or kidnap children and girls as young as five are trafficked from Cambodia over the border into Thailand. Sokha’s mother was ill with a liver complaint and the family needed money to pay for drugs to treat her and to buy land to build a home. Sokha and her friend Makara (who were 14 and 15) were sold to a trafficker who promised good jobs for them in Thailand. But reality turned out to be very different. Sokha explains how there were no ‘good’ jobs and she and Makara were used as slaves. They were given jobs selling fruit, but with their bosses taking most of the money for themselves, they were not able to survive or send any money home. Soon their bosses forced them into sleeping with men to pay their way.

The families contacted a group, Cambodian Hope Organisation (CHO), who rescues girls from prostitution. They gave them photos of the girls which were sent to Thailand. They were found and rescued and brought back to their families, where CHO then offered them counseling, support and training in sewing.

When asked what they hope for in the future, Sokha says she hopes to set up her own sewing business and employ and help girls in her situation. ‘We were scared all the time in Thailand,’ she says. ‘Now I’m happy, getting support, living with my family and free to work when I want.’


Source | Tearfund (*not her real name)

TAKE ACTION!

  • Go to the Stop The Traffik website www.stopthetraffik.org. There is info on how to start a freedom wall, where to sign the declaration on stopping trafficking and how to buy a freedom key or a Freeset bag.
  • Join the Stop The Traffik page on Bebo http://upload.bebo.com/unlockfreedom and Myspace www.myspace.com/stopthetraffik
  • The ECPAT website suggests that if you or your family are going on holiday, find out if the travel/tourist company has signed the Code of Conduct. (The code of conduct relates to the protection of children from sexual exploitation in travel and tourism.) If it has not – then try another company and encourage others to do the same. The same with your hotel. Has it signed the code? Or does it take positive steps to ensure that children are not being abused on its premises. If not then book another hotel!
  • Be informed and spread the word about child trafficking and the problems of child prostitution. Make your protests heard for your fellow children across the world.


LEARN MORE

To learn more about this subject useful tools and websites are:

www.ecpat.net
www.unicef.org
www.childtrafficking.org
www.stopthetraffik.org
www.stopdemand.org
www.yppsa.org
Born Into Brothels (DVD) available to hire for free from the Global Education Centre www.globaled.org.nz


Fact: The perception of the word “child” is different in different cultures, countries and religions. In Iran, a country with between 30,000-500,000 adult prostitutes, any girl over the age of 9 is considered an adult. This means that any number of those 500,000 prostitutes could be under the age of 18!

This article was originally published in the Global Focus pages of Tearaway Magazine.

Human Traffic

Tuesday, October 16th, 2007

Rachael Stace, with the support of Just Focus

Imagine being a child sold by your parents not knowing where you are going, or what lies ahead, the only thing you do know is that you will probably never see your family, your neighbourhood or anything that you have grown up with, and care about, ever again. Or imagine being a woman with no work and no money, leaving your home because of promises of a better life, just to find out that you have been sold into slavery.

ManaclesHuman trafficking is the movement or sale of people by others (called traffickers), often through the use of force, threats and violence, and with the purpose of exploiting the victim. It affects every continent and most countries, with approximately 2.5 million people trafficked every year.

2.5 million people, REALLY? 200 hundred years ago the British Empire put an end to the slave trade, so why, in today’s modern society, are people still bought and sold like commodities?

Boys beggingLiving in poverty greatly increases your chance of being a victim of human trafficking. People who are struggling to survive and don’t have a lot of money are desperate for a way out and traffickers can, and do, exploit this, offering false promises of money and good jobs. Men and women who lack better options locally are persuaded by the prospect of better jobs in other regions or countries and agree to migrate. Parents may be offered a brighter and better life for their children, who they cannot afford to look after anyway, so they sell their children, hoping for a better future for them. Orphans are sold by orphanages to traffickers and sometimes children off the street are simply taken.

Human trafficking is at its most extreme during times of hardship such as natural disasters, for example droughts, famines, floods, earthquakes or tsunamis (eg: the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami) because when people, already dealing with poverty, are distressed or in panic they are at their most vulnerable. They are fooled or easily persuaded and when separated from their families are easy pickings for traffickers. Orphaned children especially are easily kidnapped.

TraffickingVictims of human trafficking become slaves and are forced to do things such as hard physical labour, prostitution, become mail-order brides, work in the military forces (e.g.child soldiers), become domestic workers, fish in dangerous areas or work in factories or sweat shops.

Trafficking is worth about US$32 billion a year! The UN attribute the rapid rise in trafficking to globalisation, with the flow of information and better communications making it easier to lure poor people with unrealistic promises. Open borders in regions like Europe make it easier to move people around.

To try and fight trafficking the UN developed the Protocol Against Trafficking in Persons which was ratified in 2003 and signed by 117 countries. It makes trafficking an international crime. But law enforcement in many countries is ineffective and the punishment quite light. Trafficking is one of the world’s most lucrative crimes, with US$32 billion at stake, unfortunately the potential gain well outweighs the risks.

———————————————————————-
Sokha, Cambodia

Girls as young as five are trafficked from Cambodia over the border into Thailand. Sokha’s mother was ill with a liver complaint and the family needed money to pay for drugs to treat her and to buy land to build a home. Sokha and her friend Makara were sold to a trafficker who promised good jobs for them in Thailand. But reality turned out to be very different. Sokha explains how she and Makara were given jobs selling fruit, but with their bosses taking most of the money for themselves, they were not able to survive or send any money home. Soon their bosses forced them into sleeping with men to pay their way. Sokha’s mother died within a year, and with no more resources the family still couldn’t afford to buy land.

Fortunately their parents contacted a group, Cambodian Hope Organisation, who found and rescued the girls, bringing them back to their families and offering them support and training.

Not everyone is this lucky.

Source | Tearfund
———————————————————————

Human trafficking is a personal horror, a family’s misfortune, a community’s grief, a country’s despair and a world tragedy. All human beings are born equal, so why it is that some work and live in situations that are often too gruesome for others to even think about?

ShoesBut we HAVE to think about it, because it affects us all. Even here in Aotearoa New Zealand. The globalisation process which makes trafficking easier, also means that products made by the victims could easily find their way onto your table, or into your wardrobe, through the chocolate you eat or the shoes you walk in. You may be contributing to the problem without even knowing it.

Don’t despair about the problem, take action and be part of the solution!! Check out the websites below to learn more about the issues and for some ideas on how to get involved.

Learn More

www.tradeaid.org.nz
www.stopthetraffik.org
www.antislavery.org
www.hrw.org
www.savethechildren.net

Take Action

  • Join Just Focus www.justfocus.org.nz
  • Get involved with Trade Aid’s campaign to fight modern slavery www.tradeaid.org.nz
  • Join Amnesty International and help fight all human rights abuses www.amnesty.org.nz
  • Watch Amazing Grace, a film which follows the life of William Wilberforce, the driving force behind the abolishing of the slave trade in the British Empire
  • Talk to your friends and family
  • Sign the petition at www.antislavery.org
  • Check out the international campaign at www.stopthetraffik.org

A version of this article was published in JET Magazine.

Addictd 2 da fone

Monday, April 16th, 2007

by Anna Wu

Banglasdesh mobile If teeny bopping, Supre-toting girls in the city surprise you with their uber-pink phones, (what in the world do they need them for?) you may be more surprised to hear that Bangladesh has added almost 9 million cell phone users in a single year. Yet compared to other countries Bangladesh is just a small player, only ranked 8th among the top 10 Asian cell phone markets.

Being rich or poor as a country isn’t a factor in determining the extensive use of the cell phone. The glory of communication is widely available — data confirms new cell phone customers in Asia are of the middle-to-lower income bracket. But is there a sinister industry behind this fashionable and popular accessory?

THE GOOD

Text DumpingCell phones let us phone Mum to tell her we’ll be out for just a bit longer. Your brother might use it to call the AA while stranded on the side of a road somewhere or to break up with his girlfriend via txt. Increasingly mobiles are also being used for saving lives.

India was the first country to introduce a disaster warning cell phone system. In 30 seconds, the general public can be informed about natural disasters such as the Mumbai floods or epidemic outbreaks like cholera, through SMSs and voicemails. Similarly here in NZ, the Western Bay of Plenty have a free service to provide registered users with text alerts of Civil Defense emergencies in the region.

In the wake of the murder of German backpacker Birgit Brauer, Telecom and Vodafone launched the SAFE (7233) txt service for anyone to record their travel plans within NZ. Messages are stored and (hopefully not!) retrieved later by police to find out where the missing person’s supposed to be.

The cell phone has even emerged as a tool for fighting poverty. Last year a senior official of the United Nations World Food Programme in London received a text from a refugee in a drought-plagued camp in Kenya. It was a simple message; people are not receiving enough food “you must help.” You may wonder how someone who does not have access to enough food can afford a cell phone, but in Africa, where many nations lack public telecommunication systems, they are not a luxury but a necessity. They are cheap and are used by traders as the primary communication tool and for millions of others they are the thing that connects them to scattered communities and families. This text message was an effective way of a refugee in Kenya to access someone living in the comfort of the industralised world, where hunger is hard to imagine.

THE BAD

We already know cheap, affordable fast-fashion is to sweatshops what diamonds are to the notorious diamond mines. Similarly while cell phones have revolutionised communication, the materials that create them come at someone else’s expense.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) contains one third of the world’s cassiterite, 64 to 80 percent of the world’s colton, 10 percent of the world’s copper and 20 to 40 percent of the world’s cobalt — all of which form the components of our cell phones. U.K.-based organisation Global Witness documented “killing, rape, torture, arbitrary arrests, intimidation, mutilation” by the Democratic Republic of Congo military and other armed groups “to gain control over either resource-rich areas or the ability to tax resources.” While below ground, according to the BBC, children as young as 8 yrs old “dig and sieve from dawn to dusk” in the Ruashi mine which employs 4000 miners.

AND THE [cell phone] GRAVE

The world now has over 3.5 billion cell phone users* and the environment appears to be paying a high cost.

GorillaColton is a mineral that is used to make tiny devices that store energy in cell phones and is responsible for the phones shrinking size, but endangered animals are paying the price for this pocket-sized convenience. In a DRC national park the mountain gorilla population has plunged by half, after mining of colton devastated the gorilla’s habitat.

The U.S. Geological Survey calculates the 500 million phones lying unused in the US contain 17 million pounds of copper, 6 million ounces of silver, 600,000 ounces of gold. 17 different metals can be reclaimed.

Fortunately as global citizens and responsible consumers, we can reduce some of the impact by choosing what we do with our “dead phones.”

TOP FIVE INTERESTING FACTS

MobileThe first hand held mobile phone to become commercially available was the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X in 1983. It was 25 cms long and weighed over half a kilo!!

MobileIn 2004 Vodafone NZ’s recycling initiative “The Old, The Broke and The Ugly” prevented more than 6780kg of mobile phone equipment going to landfill, that’s 16,826 mobile phones!

MobileIn India the leading mobile service, has launched a new service, which allows customers to make their donations to temples via SMS.

MobileNew Zealand has over 3 million mobile customers who on average replace handsets for a newer, flashier one every 18 to 24 months. (This indicates their are going to be a lot more forsaken Oldies, Brokes and Uglies in the cell phone grave)

Mobile
In December 2006 people in the UK sent 4 billion texts.

TAKE ACTION

  • Use your old phone! Do you really need a new one?
  • If you really need a new phone, then recycle your old one.
  • - Drop by any Vodafone retail store with your unwanted mobiles and accessories like batteries and chargers. Your phone will go on to become things like traffic cones or copper pipes, or sent to a developing country instead to spread the joy of communication.
    - Organise a mobile recycling week at school, work or anyplace in your community by sending an email to recycling.nz@vodafone.com They’ll provide a bin as well as posters and leaflets to let people know all about it.

  • There are miners mining in conditions of virtual slavery in DRC to feed our demand for this technology and ironically mobile phones are being used to threaten those who try to draw attention to this. Visit www.amnesty.org.uk to read about the Congo appeal and send a letter online to the President telling him you support free speech.

LEARN MORE

Cell phones for civil engagement (*mobile user stat from this site)
Recycle mobiles in your community
The conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Read the full Guardian article “You Must Help”

Sweet as sin

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007

By Nicole Mathewson

PebblesMmmm. A sugar rush. You can’t beat it eh? But how much sugar do we consume? A lot more than just what we add to our tea or cereal. What about all those fizzy drinks, lollies and cakes? And it doesn’t end there - sugar is a staple ingredient in most processed foods including savoury ready-made meals. Globally, sugar consumption increases by about 2% per year, and is currently around 150 million tons!

A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down?
With so much sugar, you’d be forgiven for not being able to imagine a life without it. But did you know humans evolved without ever using it? The only kinds of sugar we need to remain healthy are lactose (found in milk) and fructose (fruits, vegetables and anything naturally nutritious). The kind of sugar we’ve come to know and love, though, is sucrose (aka sugar, refined from sugar cane or beet).

Sucrose was gradually introduced to our taste buds over time. It began innocently enough in the 1700s with a teaspoon or two in tea, but by the end of the century consumption had more than trebled. It has continued to increase worldwide ever since.

We have become so used to sugar that many people forget sucrose is just “empty calories” — it has no nutritional value. Medical problems associated with over-consumption of sucrose include obesity, increased chronic fatigue, anxiety, irritability and possibly serious mental conditions. [1] Scary huh? And this isn’t just happening in rich countries — it is also occurring in the developing world, and faster than ever.

“The consumption of sugar still goes up despite all the fanatical attacks from health cranks,” smugly says Sir Saxon Tate, boss of British sugar giant, Tate and Lyle.

A less than sweet industry
Sugar Cane HarvestingAs well as being terrible for our bodies, and almost addictive, sugar also widens the gap between the world’s rich and poor.

From the beginning, the sugar industry has not been nearly as sweet as the product. Sugar production was a big part of the slave trade, funded the expansion of European empires and put much of the original capital into capitalism.

Inequality is still rife today. For example, British Sugar’s majority shareholders, the Weston Family, receive NZ$76,700 a day from their shares, while Bekele, a typical sugar cane cutter in Ethiopia, earns less than NZ$3 a day. [2]

The power of the sugar giants
In the 1970s some companies in the sugar industry, and some which heavily used sugar in their products (e.g. soft drinks manufacturers) banded together and established various foundations’ and institutes’ which used their influence to undermine or silence any reports linking sugar with health problems. [3]

“The sugar industry has learned from the tricks of the tobacco industry,” says Professor Philip James, chairman of a national dietary guidelines committee in the UK. “Confuse the public. Produce experts who disagree. Try to dilute the message.” In the same way that oil companies deny climate change sugar companies try to persuade us that their product is not damaging.

And in New Zealand we can see the influence of these companies. Plans to remove full-sugar drinks from secondary schools have been criticised because the agreement between the Government and two of the biggest beverage companies won’t come into effect till 2009 and still allows diet drinks which can contain caffeine and artificial sweeteners which are hardly healthy. Green MP Sue Kedgley sees it as a public relations move. Children will still be exposed to “nutritionless, enamel-destroying soft drinks with addictive and controversial additives in them”, she said. [4]

Environmental concerns

Sugar plantations are harmful to the environment, being to blame for the loss of huge areas of fertile land (which could be used for growing food for local people, rather crops for export) and reducing water levels. After sixty years of sugar production in Pakistan there has been a 90 percent reduction of freshwater available. Pesticide spraying is also a problem, with twenty five million cases of serious chemical poisoning each year.[5]

It’s not all bad though. You’ve heard of Fair Trade chocolate and coffee, but you might not know you can get fairly-traded sugar too from Paraguay, available from Trade Aid stores. And it’s organic too, so no nasty pesticides were used. The most obvious way to escape from being caught in the sugar trap is to simply eat more fresh fruit and vegetables! You’ll gradually regain control over your appetite and eventually realise you don’t really need sugar at all — but if you must, try to make it fairly traded. Sweet!

Brown SugarBrown Sugar

Did you know?
A can (330ml) of regular soft drink contains up to 10 teaspoons of sugar.

  • We are the 11th biggest soft-drink consumers in the world.
  • Worldwide, about a billion people are chronically overweight and, on the flip side, a billion are chronically hungry.
  • Ethanol is a sugar-based fuel produced by fermenting cane juice. It is clean burning and can be used to fuel vehicles on its own, or mixed with petrol or diesel. Brazil has saved hundreds of millions of dollars by using ethanol rather than importing fuel, and other countries could do the same.
  • Mauritius in the Indian Ocean generates nearly half its electricity from bagasse (the crushed stalks of the sugar cane plant, after cane juice has been extracted for sugar production), and other countries, including Pacific islands such as Fiji could potentially do the same.

Learn more:
Read the New Internationalist magazine on The Sugar Trap

Take Action:

  • Join Oxfam’s Make Trade Fair campaign
  • Be aware of what you’re eating and where it came from.
  • Encourage others to take notice too.
  • Write to your local supermarket to ask them to stock Fair Trade sugar.

References:

[1] http://live.newint.org/issue363/perilous.htm
[2] http://www.maketradefair.com/en/index.php?file=sugar_pr06.htm
[3] http://live.newint.org/issue363/keynote.htm
[4] http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/1/story.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10414952
[5] http://environment.guardian.co.uk/columnist/story/0,,1932189,00.html

null

A version of this article was originally published in JET magazine.

The bitter side of chocolate

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2006

Eva Lawrence, Just Focus Coordinator

Whether you are a whitey, darkie, nutty or gooey on the inside what we all have in common is that we love chocolate. Oh chocolate, it is one of those rare pleasures that releases endorphins and keeps us coming back for more… well enough on that.
cocoa beans
When you find out about where chocolate comes from and the unfair conditions that people experience to bring us that magic bar, it can leave a nasty bitter taste in your mouth.

Chocolate comes from the cocoa bean and is produced tropical countries. Most of the world’s cocoa is grown in West Africa — the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria and the Cameroon. Almost half of the cocoa worldwide comes from the Ivory Coast.

Conditions for people working on cocoa farms are often terrible. Poverty is extreme, hours long and tasks unsafe. Child labour is common on cocoa farms, and these children often lack any chance of gaining an education as they are working from a young age.

In the Ivory Coast slavery is also occurring. Children and young men, many from neighbouring Mali are being sold or tricked into slavery. Child slaves are forced to work long hours, are underfed and of course, not paid. They are kept in inhuman conditions — often locked in at night so they can’t run away. Those that do try to escape are physically punished.

Chocolate in New Zealand

  • Cadburys claim to source their cocoa from Ghana and Malaysia
  • Whittakers claim to source their cocoa from Ghana
  • Nestle source their cocoa from a number of countries including the Ivory Coast.

(Source: Oxfam)

Bitter Ingredients
Cocoa prices are unfair and unstable on the international market. A small number of multinational corporations control the market and exploit the need of poor farmers to have an income — once the crop is grown a low price is better that no price. Therefore exporters are competing for sales by offering the lowest prices. This means that farmers have few options other than paying their workers low wages.
3 men in ghana sorting cocoa beans
Cocoa makes up a significant part of the income of some West African Countries. For the Ivory Coast for example, approximately one third of the national income comes from cocoa. Cash cropping has replaced the diverse and locally sustaining farming of the past. This means that the population is dependent on earning money from international markets to earn money to be able to buy food. Cash cropping, as well and removing the independence of communities, also creates vulnerability of economic collapse due to natural disasters, pests and crop disease.

Poverty, as always, is a huge factor in the unfair conditions. Most of the enslaved workers come from Mali, which is one of the poorest countries in the world. Young people hoping for work in neighbouring countries have been easy prey for child traffickers.

The sweeter side - Fairtrade
There is a positive side to this story though. Fairtrade cooperatives have been set up for cocoa growing in a number of countries. With fairtrade, farms are guaranteed a fair price for their cocoa and the workers receive a fair wage. Fairtrade certification forbids the use of slave labour or children working if it interferes with their education or in dangerous conditions. Furthermore, money is paid to invest in developing the community and schools

Global Links
kids in Ghana
Chocolate, which is so associated with positive stuff here in Aotearoa New Zealand, is directly linked with a whole lot of very negative stuff in some poor countries. It is a clear illustration of the link between us all in this globalised world. As is the case in many trade situations, we in the west gain goods from the labour of those in developing countries The good thing about this link is that we can do something about it.

There is no need to give up your chocolate addiction, but there are a number of things you can do to make chocolate sweeter for everyone.

TAKE ACTION!

  • Join the fair-trade chocolate campaign!
  • Fairtrade Fortnight goes from April 29 to May 13 2006— Get involved
  • Write to your favourite chocolate company and tell them you want them to use fair-trade cocoa
  • Buy fair-trade chocolate — available from Trade Aid and some health food stores.

LEARN MORE

Oxfam
Fairtrade Association of Australia and New Zealand
Trade Aid
globalexchange
divinechocolate
fairtrade.org.uk
antislavery.org

This article was originally published in Jet magazine in the Focus column. All photos courtesy of Oxfam.