Chocolate. You might like it. You might love it, might even hate it, but without a doubt, chocolate is one of the most popular foods around. Which brings me to one of my favourite times of the year – Easter. If there is something I like more than chocolate alone, is a whole day dedicated to the receiving and consuming of huge quantities of it! Now I don’t know if you celebrate Easter still. In my family, I have to beg my parents every year to buy me a few Easter eggs or an Easter bunny rabbit, but with the special day just around the corner, it becomes important to consider just what we are buying.
When you read the label or wrapper on a product we buy, we might be able to see what country it was made in, but what’s super important is what country the materials or ingredients were sourced from. So how does this relate to chocolate?
Well at the moment, a whopping 70% of the cocoa beans used to make the worlds chocolate comes from West Africa. In recent years, the market for cocoa has dropped, and harvesting cocoa beans is not an easy job. So to save money; cocoa farmers across West Africa have been known to use their children as a means of cheap or unpaid labour. Imagine not being able to hang out with your friends during the day, or picture being plucked from school to work incredibly hard all day, every day, to help support your family. In some instances, you might not even be able to go to school because your family cannot afford it. Instead, you are working hard for free, so your family can spend whatever money they have on your next meal. To top it all off, the work I am talking about here isn’t a walk in the park. Some children will spend their days carrying heavy loads and working with fire, chemicals and dangerous knives with little or no protective gear. In the most extreme of cases, some media reports show that children as young as six years old are working in these conditions up to 100 hours a week. 100 hours a week?! As a college aged student, I complete about 22+ hours a week at school and I come home exhausted. I cannot even begin to fathom the idea of 100 hours a week.
So with all of this new information in mind, a question you might ask is ‘well what can I do about this?’ the situations just mentioned seems pretty hopeless and hard to change, but lucky for us in Australia, we have something we can do! This Easter, look for the Fairtrade logo (http://www.fta.org.au/) on all chocolate you buy. This logo means that there is a guarantee that all people were paid fairly in the process of making your chocolate, and that the yummy snack you are about to eat is slave labour free! How we spend our money has a huge impact upon the living conditions of the cocoa farmers. If we make sure our chocolate is Fairtrade, we can munch away on it happily, knowing that your chocolate is helping to stop the sad and terrible process of child labour. Another action that you could take is to look into joining a VGroup with VGen Tasmania (http://www.vgen.org/) - an easily accessible group of young people that helps to promote and encourage Fairtrade at all times of the year!
‘So where might I find some Fairtrade chocolate?’ is another important question. This Easter, when you’re asking your parents to buy you some chocolate, or considering buying some for someone else, head towards any convenience store and look for Cadburys plain dairy milk chocolate – the only chocolate Cadburys sells as Fairtrade. Also search for your standard Kit Kat bar for a Fairtrade option. You could also visit any Oxfam shop and they will have a wide range of delicious ethical chocolate available for you!
Fairtrade seems like this super excellent idea to help combat slave labour in West Africa, so the big important question is, why isn’t all chocolate Fairtrade? In 2001 all major chocolate producing companies agreed to work towards making ALL their products Fairtrade. Unfortunately, 12 years later, this is still a target to be reached. So also by ensuring you buy Fairtrade, you are sending a message to the big chocolate companies saying ‘I want my chocolate to be guaranteed slave labour free!’ This Easter you can even get Cadburys Fairtrade eggs from most stores.
Fairtrade does not have to end with chocolate. Also available to us is Fairtrade tea, coffee, sports balls, clothes and even underwear! Online stores such as http://www.etiko.com.au/ can help you out there.
This year, swap your tea, coffee, sports balls, clothes and chocolate for the Fairtrade version. We all love chocolate – except the kids that are forced to make it.