Chocolate may be a tasty treat for most kids – save for those stuck as slaves in the cocoa fields.
Hundreds of thousands of children in West Africa toil 12-hour days in sickening and dangerous conditions – at no pay – just so folks elsewhere can get some cheap candy and coffee, according to the organization Global Exchange.
I’m betting just the thought of chocolate makes those kids sick. That is, if they have ever been lucky enough to taste some or even know what it is.
Global Exchange does more than just fret and moan about it. For the third year in a row, its Reverse Trick or Treating program is in full swing, expecting to hit some 250,000 households throughout the U.S. and Canada.
The campaign is on here in Tucson at the Volunteer Center in Southern Arizona, 924 N. Alvernon Way.
Between five and 15 kids, ages 11 through 18, are expected to participate. They will hit the streets around 5 p.m. on Halloween armed with fair trade chocolate and information to hand out to folks who open their doors.
Before anyone starts panicking, no one is asking you to throw out that large, costly batch of candy you have in the decorative bowl by your door.
Nor is anyone telling you to boycott candy or coffee that doesn’t come from free trade certified vendors.
You’re just being asked to think about what it’s like for those kids, the ones who are permanently ripped out of school to pick cocoa pods all day just so their family can survive.
And those are the fortunate ones.
Other African kids are actually sold – by their own families – to traffickers with the promise of a cocoa job on the Ivory Coast where they will send home their wages, Global Exchange says.
Once the family is out of sight, however, the kids are put to work with nearly or absolutely no pay from about 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
We doubt they get a lunch break.
Tasks include cleaning machetes, playing with pesticides and scaling high branches to cut down cocoa pods, which are split open for the beans to be scooped out.
It takes 400 cocoa pods to make a single pound of chocolate.
Enjoy your candy.
Cadbury provided a huge leap for the industry when it became the first major brand to earn fair trade certification earlier this year. While the certification is thus far only for its dairy milk chocolate bars in the United Kingdom, it plans to follow suit with other products in other countries.
Hershey’s is in the process of being targeted by advocates to become the first big U.S.-based company to achieve fair trade certification.
In the meantime, you can make sure to buy only fair trade chocolate and coffee. I checked out the selection at the Global Exchange’s online fair trade store thinking the prices would be ridiculous. Some are, but others are reasonable.
Any individual effort can help, but the major changes will most likely take major companies, like good ole Hershey’s and major coffee firms, to join the fray.
Now go enjoy your Halloween. And don’t feel guilty about eating that candy bar – even though it may have taken some 52 starving slave children with scabby knees and machete scars littering their stick-figure arms to help make it.
Ryn Gargulinski is a poet, artist, performer and TucsonCitizen.com Ryngmaster who doesn’t eat chocolate but enjoys her coffee. She likes the idea of fair trade products but has to yet to solely seek them out. Her column appears every Friday on Rynski’s Blogski. Her art, writing and more is at RynRules.com. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Photo Ryn Gargulinski
What do you think?
Is this a valid concern or just another way for people to draw customers away from big businesses?
Do you really care where your products come from as long as they are cheap?
Will you be changing your chocolate and coffee consumption in any way?