There are many inspirational stories of individuals, groups and organizations tirelessly working for a better world, and for the fair and equitable treatment of all people. The world is riddled with challenges, but we can help to change things for the better by the actions we take every day.
A compelling quote by Jacques Diouf inspired and challenged me to reassess how I want to contribute to a more just world: “Hunger is not an issue of charity. It is an issue of justice.” It’s about the choices we make on a daily basis and the positive or negative effects they have on other human beings, the planet and other living creatures.
A number of years ago, a “eureka” moment for me occurred when I discovered Fair Trade coffee and chocolate – and I have not looked back since. My awareness of global issues grew and I was forced to rethink how to help meet the many hardships in our global community, especially the suffering of a child enslaved on a coffee or cocoa farm. Fair Trade equates to a better quality of life for farmers, producers and artisans by providing a living wage, security and a promising future for their children. We have the power to make choices, to take the right steps to invest in helping build a better future for children of the world.
With all the positive actions taken by so many to positively impact children in developing countries, in West Africa and other developing countries, there are still some horrible realities we need to acknowledge. Imagine a child as young as six who has never tasted chocolate and never will. Imagine this child being forced to work long hours under hazardous conditions to harvest the very cocoa beans that are used to make the chocolate treats you and I enjoy. Imagine this child separated from his or her family, never to see them again. This is the reality of many children enslaved on cocoa farms in West Africa.
My husband and I travelled to Ghana in the spring of 2013. As part of our visit, we visited villages in the north. While gaining insight into the life of the average Ghanaian, it was for us a journey of the spirit. Lying on our bed at night near Kintampo, I was acutely aware of the silence around me. No flying aircraft, nor sirens or streams of cars traveling the adjacent highway. The silence would occasionally be broken by a transport truck’s roaring engine, heading south, traveling much too fast for the treacherous roads of Ghana.
Burkina Faso borders Ghana in the north, and it is there where many children are abducted and sold into child slavery to work on cocoa farmers in Ghana. We had been told that many of these children were being smuggled across the border on transport trucks. The sound of transport trucks travelling under cover of night unnerved me.
The cocoa beans used in making our chocolate products in the western world are grown in some of the poorest countries on the planet. In Ghana, and on the Ivory Coast, farmers struggle to make a living from the sale of their cocoa beans to North American and European chocolate manufacturers. The average cocoa farmer receives only a few cents of the final value of that final product. Most farmers cannot even begin to cover their production costs and, as a result, they resort to child labour. Children are sold by their parents or brazenly abducted from their villages. The families who sell the children to the traffickers are struggling to meet their own basic daily needs and are unaware of what awaits their children once they are working on a farm. The child is entrusted into the hands of a trafficker, in the hope the child will contribute to the family income. The traffickers, however, will sell the child to the farmer for a small fee to be enslaved for a lifetime. Most of these children will never earn an income to send home.
Cocoa is about a $110-billion-dollar industry. The average Canadian consumes 3.9 kg of chocolate a year. In the documentary The Dark Side of Chocolate, there’s a shot of a billboard sign that reads, “Happiness is in your hands,” with an image of a young woman enjoying a piece of chocolate. Its message is difficult for me to swallow. The reality of over two million children – some as young as six – enslaved on cocoa farms, barely receiving the basic necessities of life, simply doesn’t align with this positive image. Working 80 to 100 hours of hard labour a week; indiscriminately exposed to industrial chemicals and pesticides; sleeping on floors or wooden planks; weakened by chronic hunger and vulnerable to illnesses and increased infection; denied healthcare and education; having no one to call their own, to take care of them, to love them – these all add up to the sum total of daily life for many children in the world of cocoa farming.
As a devoted chocolate lover, I want to see the end of the heartless treatment of children in cocoa production. Fortunately, we have a choice. We can share our knowledge about the conditions of the many children working on cocoa farms with family and friends. We can spread the word about Fair Trade products and the positive impact they can have on the lives of children and entire communities. We can purchase ethically.
We can join the Fair Trade movement and plant new seeds of hope for our brothers and sisters in developing countries.
|My Child Sculpture||Organic Cocoa Powder||One Hen|