Friday, 28 April 2017

Not so sweet: the problem with chocolate

We got so much chocolate at Easter. 

This is definitely a good thing, because we all love chocolate, as I've attested in my poem, Chocolate, which you'll find here. We got mini eggs and creme eggs, After Eights and Rolos, we got Maltesers and Smarties and lots lots more. We have generous family, and neighbours, and we are grateful for it.

We have eaten chocolate as it comes, made it into sauce and into delicious cookies. At one point we were eating it and talking about Kraft's decision to draw back a bit on Cadbury's commitment to Fair Trade.

The kids learn all about Fair Trade at school and they want to support it, so I said I'd google what was happening about chocolate. What I found out totally sucked. There's a good article on it here for more info.

Basically, Cocoa beans grow in tropical climates like those found in West Africa, where 70% of cocoa is grown. For Ghana and the Ivory Coast cocoa is a very important commodity. However, we are not paying enough for cocoa,so to cut costs cocoa farmers are resorting to child labour, including child slavery.

These kids must work long days doing hard manual work. Many of them get little or no schooling, and all of them are put at risk by two big dangers in their work - the insecticides they spray without protection (because there are a lot of bugs in the tropics), and the machetes (big knives) which they carry up trees to cut down the bean pods, and then use to force the bean pods open.

Meanwhile the kids get very poor food themselves, and often have to stay in horrible housing, with no comfy place to sleep and nowhere they can get clean.

We can try to support farmers getting a fair wage, so they shouldn't have to use kids labour like this, but Fair Trade have had to remove some of their accreditations recently, after finding child labour to be more widespread than previously thought. Perhaps that's why Kraft have diluted Cadbury's commitment.

Anyway, unfortunately it comes down to paying more. So far, no evidence has been found of these practices in the tropical parts of South America where cocoa is grown, so these seem like the sensible places to source cocoa at the moment. The Food Empowerment Project has an app and lots of info to help you get the best vegan chocolate. You'll find all that here. We love our milk chocolate though, so we are going to be looking out for chocolate that's ORGANIC (this is mainly from Latin America), FAIRTRADE, and FOREST FRIENDLY. This is a bit more expensive generally, which means we will probably (weep for us) eat less. That's got to be good, right?

By the way, child labour isn't the only problem with chocolate, there are also problems of deforestation, and the nasty effects of all those insecticides among others. Watch out for Palm Oil in your yummies too!