A Sweet Fix with a Bitter Aftertaste 

A behind the scenes look at the origins of our favourite treat.


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International labour law forbids child labour and the trafficking of children, but despite this, it is estimated that over 100,000 children work in the Ivory Coast's cocoa industry, about 10,000 of which may be the victims of child trafficking and enslavement. The African nation has an estimated 700,000 to 800,000 small family farms on which children often help. Thus, it is very difficult to discern which farms are using illegal child slaves being forcibly held with no hope for an education and which are simply family groups working together to eke out a living.

The small, Malian boy was taken to a farm where a group of children wielding large machetes hacked large pods of cocoa beans from the trees. Days were long, up to 12 hours, and meals meagre affairs of corn paste and bananas. After the pods had been harvested from the trees they used the same machetes to slice them open, releasing their treasure. The children were unaware of their constant exposure to dangerous pesticides. Nor were they aware they weren't being paid as child traffickers sold them to the plantation owner and any attempt at escape would result in a thorough beating. They were far from their families, unable to speak the local language and were offered no hope for an education. Skinny shoulders were rubbed raw from hauling heavy sacks of cocoa beans. The children had never tasted chocolate and likely never would.

Those with a strong social conscience need not deny themselves the enjoyment of a chocolate goodie.

Their treats will, however, cost a little more. Fair Trade is a non-governmental organization that promotes trading partnerships based on transparency, respect and equality. Products backed by the Fair Trade logo will indeed command a higher price, but what you are buying is dignity and economic self-sufficiency for whomever produced that product. The organization sets standards for quality, environmental practices, forced labour control and gender equality. It ensures that farmers and craftsmen are paid a fair price for their products ensuring their economic sustainability, as well as providing funds to support community development in the form of things like schools, healthcare facilities, roads and wells.

Although the vast majority of the chocolate found at the grocery store cannot claim that its cocoa was not produced on farms that utilize forced child labour, it is easily found by those who care to look. Cocoa Camino and Green and Black's are two fairly common brands bearing the Fair Trade label. And of the large, well known chocolate manufacturers, Cadbury's had committed to using Fair Trade cocoa for their Dairy Milk line by summer of last year, a move which doubled the amount of Fair Trade chocolate in Canada.

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