By Max Miller & Tammy Lee, Grade 12
Tammy: Om nom nom nom, these chocolates are amazing!
M: What the… Heart-shaped box, huh? Someone must have gotten lucky on Valentine’s Day.
T: Yeah, my best friend bought it for me. Isn’t it huge?! It must have cost a lot of money. I’m so lucky to have a friend who loves me this much.
M: What? … I mean, do you really measure your friendships like that?
T: Of course! Compare this to the paper card you made me! What the heck was that? You just took paper out of your printer. I bet it didn’t even cost you any money.
M: If that’s really how you judge your friendship, what do you think when it comes to all the time and effort I put in to make that card? I bet I took more time to make that card than your friend did to do some quick shopping for those chocolates.
Originally published in the December ’07 Issue of the Windermere Word – By: Chitha Manoranjan
The sickening truth behind the sugary face of chocolate
“Chemically speaking, chocolate really is the world’s perfect food.”
Remember those days, back when you loved chocolate and chased people just so you could have it? Eating it to an such an extent that you felt you like you were going throw up? Many habits do change, but the fact is, that most people still do love chocolate. However, little do we know that the chocolate we eat may not just be bad for our own health, but, extremely harmful for the health of others as well.
Cocoa, the main ingredient in chocolate, is produced in Ghana, Indonesia, Nigeria, Brazil, Cameroon, and the Ivory Coast. Cocoa production has impressive effects on the economy of these countries. The largest amount of cocoa is produced in these six countries, but the Ivory Coast accounts for 43% of the world’s cocoa, making it the world’s largest cocoa producer. But, what little elves do all this work to get the cocoa out? A report released in the USA concluded that in recent years, approximately 15,000 children ages 9 to 12 have been sold into forced labour on cotton, coffee and cocoa plantations. Since then, many more reports have shown that child traficking has also increased. The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (ITTA) added to the previously released reports and looked into cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, and Cameroon. Approximately 284,000 children work on cocoa farms in dangerous conditions. Machetes, pesticides, and insecticides are all daily parts of life for these young children who have no other choice but to work to feed their families. Most of these young workers work daily from 6:00 in the morning and sometimes work until 6:30 at night – more than twelve hours a day! The ironic part of this whole situation is that most of these children have not even had the chance to eat chocolate and taste the fruits of their labour.
The largest reason these children do not have the proper childhood that most other children grow up with is because of money. The income for cocoa producers is not enough for families to meet their needs. Some villages where these children work from have dirty water sources which make people sick everyday. The money they get from the cocoa industry is not enough to help. The reason for this is because of the low and unstable prices of cocoa. Companies who buy the cocoa from the producers refuse to take any action to help out. Even though prices are now slowly rising, it is still not enough for the workers to survive. It’s a continuous trap of poverty. There is no chance that children can go to school unless their family has a way to feed themselves and pay for school. Since the profit of producing cocoa is so low, families get their children to work too. Therefore, the children don’t go to school, have a lower literacy rate, have no chance of getting a good job, and keep continuing in the cycle of poverty.
The effects of the cocoa industry does not stop at child labour. Another downside to it’s production is the devastating impact it has on the environment. Cocoa production results in the deforestation of some eight million hectares of tropical forests. Most of these areas that have been cleared off hold many of the world’s most incredible biological wonders. An average cocoa plantation remains productive for only twenty-five to thirty years, after that, more forests are cut down to clear more room for a new plantation. Deforestation also occurs in the name of the cocoa industry when prices are unstable. An increase in prices would mean more farmers plant more trees to increase profit. Lower prices would mean that farmers plant more trees to make an equivalent profit as previous years.
Many of the problems behind chocolate is that the cocoa that it’s made from destroys hundreds of hectares of land and destroys the lives of many millions of children. As painful as this information is, there are still many companies in the world who buy cocoa by paying people what they deserve and buy cocoa that does not harm the environment. After increased pressure on the chocolate industry, there have been plans towards eliminating the worst forms of child labour. However, this plan does not guarantee that prices will remain stable and prices will be sufficient. Without this, there is still a chance of child labour and deforestation.
To our good fortune, there is a way to fix this imbalance. Fair Trade chocolate is the healthier alternative for those who are equally disgusted by the sickening truth behind the sugary face of chocolate. Chocolate of this variety is marked with the “Fair Trade Certified” and Fair Trade Federation labels. All chocolate that is bought is guaranteed to be bought using fair payments, is guaranteed to not have come in contact with child labour, and has guaranteed environmental sustainability. The price for each gram of cocoa produced is much better than what is paid normally to the farmers. This way, families are able to survive, and the never-ending cycle of poverty can be broken. Some common Fair Trade chocolate brands are Rapunzel, Dagoba, La Siembra Group, and Grenada Chocolate Company. These brands may be a few dollars more, but it’s all worthit when you’re saving a life.