My pleasure, their misery?

November 21st, 2011 in Change. Tags: , , , ,

Food Aid

A short time ago, I posted on poverty and the growing world population (7 billion and counting), and about the challenge of deciding how to respond (The cost of addressing world poverty).

Let’s start with something small which most of us can do this week, or this year.

The bitter truth about chocolate

Chocolate is big business. The figures on the internet don’t always agree, but here is as good a summary as I can find:

  • The chocolate confectionary business is worth about $70 billion worldwide.
  • About 80% of the world’s cocoa is grown in West Africa, with Cote d’Ivoire accounting for about half of this.
  • The world’s cocoa crop is worth about $5 billion per year, and 40-50 million people depend on cocoa for their livelihood.
  • Child labour is common in West Africa and according to this BBC report, 1.8 million children work in the production of cocoa. Some assist on poor family farms, but it is estimated that about 10,000-15,000 are illegally trafficked and forced to work as slaves on cocoa plantations, working under extremely harsh conditions (see Wikipedia, University of America, and Soul Economy.

There can be no doubt that some of the chocolate we all eat was grown on plantations which exploit and abuse slave children.

World response

This situation has been publicised in recent years and slow steps are being made towards alleviating the situation:

Making a difference

We, the chocolate buying public in the rich western world, can make a difference.

  • We can make a shift in our purchases. This will involve some sacrifice, as certified chocolates are often more expensive and have a much smaller range. It is not realistic to only purchase certified chocolate, but we can go a long way towards that.
  • We can write to chocolate manufacturers encouraging them to use certified child labour free cocoa. If we are willing to change our buying habits, we can explain this to the manufacturers.

It seems like a small price to pay

I have begun, falteringly, to move in this direction. I am beginning to amend my chocolate buying habits and will try to find more Fair Trade alternatives. And I have written to the manufacturers of the two brands of chocolates I eat most. I wrote to Cadbury, complimenting them on making one of their range Fair Trade, but suggesting chocolate eaters with a conscience might like greater choice. And I wrote to local confectioner, Darrell Lea, who have no Fair Trade products, asking them to consider taking this step.

I’ll report back what they say.

Will you join me?


  1. Exactly, several NGOs claim Nestlé uses unethical marketing techniques for its dry formula in countries with poor access to safe drinking water. What are your thoughts were on the issue?

  2. I’ve not investigated it to know the facts, but I’m inclined to feel Nestle was not behaving well.

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