Jason Bayless is a life-long activist and is currently working at The Pachamama Alliance. When he is not working he spends, working with Center for Farmworker Families and spending his time recording shows, writing blogs, collecting 3D movies, and playing VR games.
In news that has been reported this week in the Ivory Coast is about the violence that seems to, once again, erupt over President Laurent Gbagbo’s refusal to step down after his defeat in last November’s Election. [singlepic id=1598 w=320 h=240 float=right]
Reports are showing that cocoa farmers are being put in the middle of this blood shed and potential civil war. (here is an article that states, “Sixty per cent of the cocoa industry workforce is made up of children under the age of 14. Worse yet, the child slavery helps Gbagbo to stay in power. The use of slave labor enables the cocoa to be produced cheaply, taxed heavily, then exported in return for hard foreign currency.) People all over are calling for a boycott on African chocolate just to help stop a civil war.
It is not only important for us to encourage an end to child labor but we must remember that chocolate companies play a critical role in stopping the bloodshed by pulling out and stop funding a corrupt government. It has been shown time and time again that African governments have historically prevented African smallholders from getting their fair share and how recent developments have further depleted farmer’s incomes. If companies won’t do it on their own we have a duty as citizens to let the companies know that we will not support their policies that exploit people.
In short, no matter how many ‘fair trade’, ‘co-ops’ are created the system (the African Government) is not set up for farmers and workers to make reasonable incomes and sets the stage for forced labor. So when companies say they support fair trade and have such practices and buy their cocoa from Africa, it means that they have no control or even the knowledge to say their product is child labor free. As represented in the industry paper, Chocolate Work: Slavery, it states, “As human nature serves to confirm; the farmers themselves may not even be aware that they are supporting slavery; with the earnings of a small cocoa farm far less than the wages owed the workers. Forced or indentured labor is slavery.” This statement is also reflected in the BBC documentary, Chocolate – The Bitter Truth when the reporter took child labor chocolate and sold it in the market without any questions asked and then it was bought by a major chocolate company who states they don’t support child labor.
It is important, if we are serious about healthy living that we make sure our purchases reach further than our stomachs and truly support healthy living for all. We as consumers and business owners must send the message that we will not buy cocoa from Africa because we don’t support companies who exploit their workers or pay others to do so. [singlepic id=1599 w=320 h=240 float=left]
At the end of the day, we can either give them our money and accept that we are paying for corruption, death and slavery. Or we can make a stand and let the companies know that we will not support them in their quest for blood profit.
All is not lost because there are cocoa farms in Latin America that are true fair trade, democratically managed farms who do not have a history of child labor. We must support them because they are setting the proper example of how these farms should be handled.
The good news is that the fine people over at the Food Empowerment Project (you may remember the interview The New Architects did with the founder, Lauren Ornelas.) has done most of the leg work for you and started a running list of companies who buy their chocolate from Africa and those who don’t.
It is important to remember that this is will grow over time so it important to keep checking back because more companies will be added to it as they gather more information.
Chocolate we feel comfortable recommending;
– Crispy Cat
– Justin’s Nut Butter
– Nature’s Path
– Newman’s Own
– Shaman Chocolates
– Sunflour Baking Company
– Theo Chocolate
– Zenergy Powerballs
Cannot recommend but at least responded (most were aware of the issue and were working on it);
– Earth Balance
– Endangered Species Chocolate
– Guittard Chocolate Company
– Terra Nostra
Companies that would not disclose (no transparency for customers);
– Clif Bar
– Imagine Foods/Hain Pure Foods/Mars, Inc (Soy Dream, Rice Dream, Sunspire)
– Moonstruck Chocolatier
– The Hershey Company
– Kraft Foods, Inc
– Russell Stover Candies
So, you maybe asking yourself what you can do, if that is so then here is a short list of things to do;
- Don’t buy chocolate from companies who get theirs from Africa.
- If you see your favorite chocolate on the list contact the company and voice your concerns and let them know you will not buy their product.
- Contact your local grocery store and encourage them to remove the African chocolate
- Let others know about this issue.
If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact us or The Food Empowerment Project.