Especially as we're coming up to Easter, I thought it was poignant that my pastor decided to do a presentation on the chocolate industry and slavery. An estimated 15,000 Malian children work as slaves on Ivorian cocoa plantations. Cote D'Ivoire supplies 43% of the world cocoa to the main chocolate producers in Europe and America. Chances are the chocolate that you will eat this Easter, much of it will have been at the cost of forced labour and beating of children.
I'm sure this isn't shocking to most people as this made big news back in 2001. Then there was supposed to have been a voluntary code set up by the Chocolate manufacturers to ensure that child slavery was ended on cocoa farms by 2005. Sadly this hasn't been met. Here's a excerpt from the american Global Exchange (fair trade) website:
"In 2001, this unacceptable practice caught the attention of the media and the government, and the American public began to voice their abhorrence of the use of child slave labor in the production of one of their most beloved treats: chocolate. In response, the US chocolate industry agreed (via the Harken-Engel Protocol) to voluntarily take steps to end child slavery on cocoa farms by July of 2005.
Unfortunately, this deadline has now passed, and the chocolate industry has failed to comply with the terms of this agreement. As a result, Global Exchange is spearheading a campaign that will provide an opportunity for communities nationwide to voice their concerns about the chocolate industry's abuse of children's rights."
This is still an important issue! In the words of one Malian child slave, "Tell your children that they have bought something that I suffered to make. When they are eating chocolate they are eating my flesh." (this quote come s from Stop the Traffik.org)
Okay, so is there anything we can do about it? Pray, that's a good start. When you see easter eggs for sale in the shops (or chocolate bunnies if you're in america) stop and pray.
Antislavery.org doesn't recommend boycotts of buying chocolate, as this often does more harm than good, hurting already poor farmers who don't use slaves, and encouraging more farmers to use slave labour as the demand for their goods (and their income) falls.
Other than that we can support Ethical Trade Initiatives, by encouraging your family to sit down this easter and write a letter to one of the chocolate producers, encouraging them to increase their efforts to guarantee just labour practices. (I've put a few addresses at the end but local ones shouldn't be too hard to find.)
On Easter we choose to celebrate the crux of our faith, there is victory over death and the destructive pattern that we are part of in this world will not prevail. Let's continue to try and live that way now, and in God's power (through Christ's ressurection) we know that it's possible.
Corporate Affairs Manager
Nestlé UK Ltd.
St. George's House
External Relations Department
Terry's Suchard/ Kraft Foods
St. George's house
Consumer Relations Department
PO Box 12