Most of the chocolate we consume is produced in Africa – strangely enough we like to call it “Swiss” or “Belgian” Chocolate. I can tell you that there’s no chocolate plantations in either of those countries. Rather, chocolate grows in Western Africa in countries like Sierra Leone, Côte d’Ivoire or Liberia – rather conflict-struck countries. Now, what is behind the sweetness of those little black pieces?
There is child labour. Alternet quotes Judy Gearhart, executive director of the International Labor Rights Forum who knows that “in West Africa, where Hershey’s sources much of its cocoa, over 200,000 children are forced to harvest cocoa beans every year.” Hershey since then has pledged to change things.
Another dark side of chocolate is the deforestation caused by chocolate plantations. That it could also be different shows the example of Brazil where plantations use the system of cabrucas. They “are composed of shade-tolerant cacao trees grown under a forest canopy.” It is a first step away from the mono-crop chocolate plantations which provide most of the dark delight we enjoy so much.
Big companies seem to have a hard time actually changing something in their policy, let’s remember the case of Nestlé. “In 2010 they announced to go FairTrade but really they only to that to a very small extent. Though Nestlé have bowed to pressure from the STOP THE TRAFFIK campaign to clean up their act, they will also announce that this will only apply to their ‘four finger’ product. In other words, two finger Kit Kats and all of their other chocolate products will continue to exploit the chocolate slaves of the Ivory Coast from where Nestlé source most of their cocoa.” Another example of a very limited commitment is Cadbury FairTrade Dairy Milk Chocolate. It is only available in the UK and Ireland. What about the rest of the world? A bit better is Mars who promised that its “Galaxy range will be Rainforest Alliance certified in 2010 with their whole product range traffik free by 2020.”
The sad thing is that the chocolate industry is full of empty promises. According to STOP THE TRAFFIK, in 2001 they all signed to “put an end to the trafficking in the supply chain of chocolate by 2005.” Since then the deadline has been extended to 2008…it’s already 2012 now.
Germans apparently eat about 11 Kilos of chocolate a year (per person). I’m sure that number is about right also for other nationalities even if we Europeans are the biggest chocolate consumers in the world. A German documentary follows the origins of these treats and discovers the truth behind it. You can watch “Schmutzige Schokolade” (Dirty Chocolate) here for free and fully legal.
It’s up to us to choose the chocolate we buy. No need to support Nestlé in their careless way of bringing us sweets. If you keep your eyes open you’ll see the alternatives that there are, small producers who care for the products they sell – it’s might not be Swiss or Belgian but definitely less sinful.
What else you can do? Ask for slavery and child labour free chocolate: the 10 Campagin.