Easter is fast approaching, and if you’re filling any Easter baskets this year, chances are you are including some chocolate candy.  My favorite Easter treat has always been Reeses Peanut Butter Eggs.  That is, until this year when I learned about the exploitation of children and slaves which make it possible for us to have reasonably priced chocolates readily available to us.

Previously, my knowledge of chocolate making was limited to what I had learned on a few trips through Chocolate World at Hershey Park.  That fun and informative ride doesn’t really tell the full story. Allow me to share with you a few facts about chocolate that you may not learn at Chocolate World.

Most of the world’s cocoa is grown in West Africa, especially the Ivory Coast. The prices for cocoa, however, are set by big businesses rather than the farmers who grow the cocoa.  Because these big businesses want to buy their cocoa at low prices to maximize their profits, cocoa farmers cut costs wherever they can in the harvesting of their cocoa beans because they want to increase their profits, too.

How do these cocoa farmers keep their costs low?  One of the easiest ways to lower costs is to spend less on labor. Sadly, this mean that many people who work on these cocoa farms are not paid a fair wage.  Some of the work is done by slave workers, and thousands of those slaves are children, many as young as nine years old.

Much information is available online about the use of children and slaves in cocoa harvesting, but little is being done about the problem.  Part of the problem is that it’s difficult to know what to do.  A boycott of chocolate sounds like the best way to react, yet a total boycott would drive cocoa prices even lower with even less money going to the farmers.

For now, the best means we have of speaking out against child labor in the cocoa industry is to demand and to buy fair trade chocolates.  Unfortunately, fair trade chocolates are more expensive than other chocolates, and they are not as readily available as other chocolates.  That would change though if we all refused to buy chocolate that is not labeled “fair trade”.

If you’re not sure what to do, here are a few suggestions:

1) Ask for fair trade chocolates in the grocery stores where you shop.

2) Call or write to chocolate companies asking them to buy fair trade cocoa

3) Learn more by doing some online research about slave labor in the chocolate    business

4) Raise awareness by discussing these deplorable practices with others.

5) Keep buying chocolate, but buy fair trade chocolate.

I am just now waking up to the idea that the choices that I make have far-reaching consequences, not just for me, but for many other people, too.  I want to make the most responsible choices that I can make, speaking out with my words and with my dollars on behalf of every person represented by the faces behind the products that I buy.

My commitment to buy only fair trade coffee, tea, and chocolates is just the beginning of this journey for me.

Make mine Fair Trade!
Were you already aware of the plight of many who harvest cocoa beans?  What are you willing to do to ensure justice for those who are being exploited?