With Hallowe’en just days away, it’s easy to get swept up in the spooky excitement of October 31st. Kids across Canada are counting down the days until they can wriggle into their costumes, ring doorbells and return home with a stash of candy and mini chocolate bars.
But, sadly, chocolate does not always lead to happiness for children who toil on cocoa farms, particularly in Western Africa where child labour and even slavery continue.
Although there is a huge demand for cocoa worldwide – which can only be grown in small tropical areas in Africa and South America – most farmers live in destitute poverty due to low prices, small farm sizes and lack of infrastructure. According to the most recent Cocoa Barometer, cocoa farmers in Ghana make 84 cents a day. This figure is well below the local poverty line, so they rely on children’s cheap labour to carry the load (sometimes literally.) Child workers have described being forced to hoist cocoa-pod-filled sacks larger than they are.
The good news
Fortunately, there are chocolate companies committed to fair trade that help make life sweeter for farmers and their children.
Take our partner, Divine Chocolate, a farmer-owned company and leading social enterprise. All Divine Chocolate products are Fair Trade certified and the company is 44 per cent owned by the Kuapa Kokoo farmer’s cooperative in Ghana. As shareholders in the Divine Chocolate Company, members not only receive fair trade prices for their cocoa, but share in the candy company’s profits.
Earlier this month, two of the farmers’ children travelled to the UK to teach other kids about their culture and how fair trade makes a difference in their lives. Esther Awusi, 15, and Samuel Awuni, 15, both go to school and plan on careers in medicine and law. Esther even receives an hour of extra tutelage each night provided by Kuapa Kokoo.
“I help my mother on the cocoa farm by gathering cocoa pods during harvest time, but mostly I concentrate on my education,” she says.
Samuel helps out on the farm from time to time, weeding and clearing, but he too spends most of his time at school or studying (when he’s not playing soccer with friends!).
“My dream is to become a lawyer so I can help my family and people,” says Samuel, who takes part in a child rights project run by Kuapa Kokoo at his school.
The project teaches children and their parents what kinds of work children are permitted to do by law and what they should stay away from. Samuel says he now knows about the physical impact of carrying loads that are too heavy, as well as using dangerous tools such as machetes – a common utensil used by coffee farmers to split open pods and hack them down from plants.
“My parents know about this and they do not ask me to do dangerous work,” he explains.
Shell out wisely
There’s still time this week to purchase fair trade chocolate for Hallowe’en. Ten Thousand Villages carries bite-sized chocolate bars from both Divine and Camino as well as other tasty products like hot cocoa and Christmas chocolate. Divine has made the Food Empowerment Project’s list of chocolate the organization feels comfortable recommending.
|Fast Cocoa Facts|