For many people in the United States, $30 is relatively small amount of
money. It’s the cost of taking the family out to the movies, or the price of
a pair of pants. If you’re feeling romantic, thirty dollars can buy a dinner
for two—or maybe a fancy box of chocolates.
For cocoa farmers in impoverished West Africa, $30 can mean their entire
yearly income. According to a recent study by the International Institute of
Tropical Agriculture (IITA), average annual earnings from cocoa farming
range from $30 to $110 per member of household. These amounts, the report
said, make “it difficult for families to have sufficient income to meet
their needs.” In other words, even as chocolate corporations make billions
in profits, cocoa farmers are on the verge of starvation.
The IITA investigation also confirmed earlier reports of child labor in the
cocoa industry. The report—which surveyed 1,500 farms in Ivory Coast, Ghana,
Nigeria and Cameroon—found that 284,000 children work in hazardous tasks
such as using machetes and applying pesticides and insecticides without the
necessary protective equipment. The ITTA also reported that about 12,500
children working on cocoa farms had no relatives in the area, suggesting
that they were trafficked as slaves.
The major US chocolate corporations are well aware of this horrible
situation but refuse to embrace the Fair Trade solution. In June, more than
200 citizens groups signed a letter to M&M/Mars asking the company to
address the injustices in the cocoa fields by starting to offer Fair Trade
Certified chocolate. The corporation offered no response.
Now Global Exchange is taking our Fair Trade chocolate campaign to the
people M&M/Mars won’t be able to ignore—schoolchildren. This fall we will
distribute teacher guides and activity books to K-12 classrooms across the
country. The teachers can use the materials to give their students the facts
about how children just like them never get to eat chocolate or play but
instead spend their whole time working in the cocoa fields. Teachers will
then ask their students to send candy wrappers to M&M/Mars with letters
asking the company to offer Fair Trade chocolate.
Join us on these projects todat to ensure fairness for small cocoa farmers around the world! See our Fair Trade chocolate campaign web pages for information about the campaign and what you can do!