The following post is written by guest blogger, Annmarie Kostyk. Annmarie has had a love affair with food since she was a toddler.  Her passion is chocolate, and her academic and professional life are centered around it.  She has been collecting and consuming chocolate bars from all over the world and currently has a collection of over 140 chocolate bars!

The World Cocoa Foundation is the most prominent organization in the world addressing the monumental problem or child and slave labor in cacao producing countries.  In the 19th century, the labor force on these plantations came from slave labor from Africa.  Eventually the slaves became workers with the most minimal wage.  The free and low cost labor allowed the cocoa to become more available to the masses.

1_cocoa_beans_1.jpg

Today the African workers are still paid minimally. The Ivory Coast, the leader in cacao production, pays a mere $165 annually, the Brazilian workers $850 annually.

In 2000, the BBC produced a documentary on children who were being stolen from their families and forced into slave labor on the cacao plantations.  The children work over 12 hours a day, some are beaten, have no breaks, are not fed properly and are kept in prison-like conditions.  This problem is limited to a few of the larger plantations in over one million West African cacao plantations, still no child is safe.

cocoa_beansontree.jpg

The Cocoa Tree, a non-profit, states that the following are abusive labor practices for children:

if a child’s health or safety is at risk
if they can not attend school because they are forced to work
if they are not free to run and play

The industry’s goals are to understand the problem, find experts to help and to create and implement a plan.  UNICEF is a premier world organization to protect children who are involved in trying to solve this ethical problem.  The BBC named as the foremost reason for the problem is the United States huge chocolate candy industry buying their beans from the heavily slave labor area of the Ivory Coast in West Africa.  More of a demand, more labor is needed.

This severe and disturbing problem brought the idea of fair trade chocolate to the forefront.  Fair trade certifies that producers follow a set of given rules and they are in turn paid top dollar for their beans.   The official rule of fair-trade is “There are two sets of generic producer standards, one for small farmers and one for workers on plantations and in factories.  The first set applies to small-holders organized in cooperatives or other organizations with a democratic, participative structure.  The second set applies to organized workers, whose employers pay decent wages, guarantee rights to join trade unions and provide good housing where relevant.  On plantations and in factories, minimum health and safety as well as environmental standards must be complied with, and no child or forced labor can occur.”

cocoabeanshor_1.jpg

There are extensive organizations working together so that cacao farmer get paid fairly and in return educate the children of their workers and pay their workers well.  The primary organizations are the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the French Cocoa Research Organization, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.N. Development Program, Conservation International, the ARCI, and the British Cocoa and Chocolate Association.  Their primary goal is financial and the secondary goal is the ethical and environmental concern.  Due to consumer demand, there is more fair-trade chocolate available now than ever before.  If the cocoa beans from your chocolate bar came from Fair-Trade practices, it will say so on the label, as is the case with Endangered Species Chocolate.

Chocolate-Related:  previously on altCon (1.16.07)
Endangered Species – the Snow Leopard