Easter is a time to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. We spend quality time with family and friends. Enjoy a holiday. Revel in the first glimpses of spring. And indulge in copious amounts of Easter eggs.
It seems everywhere there are Easter eggs wherever we turn. Novelty shapes, colours and branding mean we’re all likely to indulge a little more than usual – especially those of us who have given up chocolate for lent.
I wonder how many of us think about where all of this chocolate is coming from. Sadly, most of those eggs are coming off the backs of children.
Over a third of the world’s cocoa comes from the Ivory Coast, Africa. Thousands of boys as young as ten years old are trafficked and forced to do back-breaking and dangerous work using machetes to harvest cocoa beans.
While there have been improvements in the chocolate industry, human trafficking remains an ongoing and deep-seated problem. It’s hard to get accurate and detailed information on the problem because by its nature trafficking is a hidden industry. Research from organisations such as the International Cocoa Initiative and UNICEF show that between 300,000 and one million children are being forced to harvest cocoa beans. Many of these children have been trafficked to do so. While there is no exact figure, we can all agree this is far too many children.
These children have their freedom ripped away from them. They are forced to work long hours without pay. They endure appalling work conditions, and are beaten – all so we can have an endless supply of chocolate throughout the year.
In 2012 CNN shared the story of 10-year-old Abdul who was suffering at the hands of chocolate’s billion dollar industry. Abdul had been working with a gang of harvesters for three years. He didn’t get paid for the gruelling, long hours but got a pile of food, an occasional tip from the owner of the farm and the torn clothes on his back. He had never tasted chocolate.
This sobering reality suddenly makes all that chocolate rather less appetising. Or it should. Fortunately we all have the power to do something to change this reality.
We can use our buying power and choose to buy Fairtrade chocolate. Some say there’s no point making this change, as one person’s consumer choices doesn’t make a difference. Frankly, I think that’s a weak and pathetic excuse to justify making bad choices that are having a direct and devastating impact on innocent children. The proof is in the pudding; chocolate makers and suppliers are responding to the demand for Fairtrade chocolate. There are more and more Fairtrade chocolate brands making it easy to find and increasingly affordable. Stop the Traffik have produced great guides so you know which Easter eggs and chocolate are Fairtrade and where you can buy them.
We can also take a few seconds to sign Stop the Traffik’s petition, asking leading supermarkets to use their buying power and influence to help end child trafficking in chocolate by doubling the number of certified Easter eggs they sell next Easter. Certified eggs include those with the Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance or UTZ Certified mark.
There are number of other ways you can do you bit to end child trafficking in the chocolate industry. This doesn’t require a great commitment of time or resources on your part. What will only take a few minutes of your time could result in real, lasting and positive change.
In an age that celebrates freedom, equality and opportunity, too many people – around 30 million – are subject to the horrors of slavery and trafficking – for the sake of our indulging our sweet tooth.
We cannot allow this to continue. Desmond Tutu famously said: “do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” So let’s do our little bit this Easter and beyond. No child should have to suffer for the sake of our chocolate fix.