It only takes one small choice….
Chocolate lovers can hardly wait for Easter! From the sweet aroma when the foil is opened, to that first taste of sugar and cocoa – we’re held captive by a million tastebuds clamouring for more. Last year, Australian’s spent more than $200 million on Easter chocolate. In the West we’re some of the biggest consumers of Easter eggs in the world, averaging over 20 per person – that’s a lot of sugar!
However the matter of the fact is that our Easter consumption habits have unexpected costs.
70% of the world’s cocoa beans come from four West African countries: Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon. The Ivory Coast and Ghana are by far the two largest producers: together they cultivate more than half of the world´s cocoa. For these nations exports of the sought-after bean provide a vital source of income.
The problem is that as the chocolate industry has grown over the years, so has the demand for cheap cocoa. Despite this the prices paid to cocoa farmers has fallen. On average, producers in West Africa earn less than $2 per day, an income below the poverty line. As a result, farmers resort to the use of child labor to keep their prices competitive. According to an investigative report by the BBC, hundreds of thousands of children are being purchased from their parents or outright stolen and then shipped to Ivory Coast, where they labor in slave-like conditions.
The vast majority of cocoa still comes from small, family-run farms that have little or no bargaining power with large transnational corporations. The children who work on them are far away from the shiny products and hefty price-tags on our supermarket shelves. According to World’s Visions ‘stop the traffic campaign’, out of the hundreds and thousands of Easter eggs that will be sold this year, only 5% will be free of child labour.
Knowing that child labour flavours our chocolate is enough to give any chocolate lover a serious case of indigestion!
This serves as a reminder that as Christians we are called to be different. We are called against conformity. We are called to be light of the world. We are called to be a change and stand up for what is fair, righteous and just.
This brings us back to Easter eggs! Fortunately there is an alternative. The fight for fair-trade chocolate has been a continuous battle over the last fifteen years in particular, with large corporations being forced to admit their their practices in purchasing goods that are not of an ethical standard. Slowly they are changing their ways. The fair trade symbol is gradually making its way into our giant supermarkets. Most consumers still don’t know that when you purchase something with this symbol that the product is likely to be child labour free and that farmers are getting paid a better salary.
Sure, it’s a little bit more expensive. Living ethically generally is. It’s a difficult decision to make when purchasing Easter eggs for the kids, and it’s certainly easier to turn a blind eye and think that ‘the damage has already been done’. But what are you willing to pay for? Will you put your money towards fair pay for farmers and workers, the empowerment of women & communities, or ensuring that child slaves aren’t collecting the beans that make your chocolate bar what it is?
You might have to pay an extra dollar for the Easter Egg with the Fair Trade symbol, but at least you can be assured that you’re not doing more harm to the life of a child slave or stranger this Easter. You can be the change, and fight for justice this Easter, all the while enjoying your chocolate ‘guilt-free’.
There are great resources given to us by not-for-profit aid organisations to show us where and how we can make ethical choices.
You can look at World Vision Australia’s Ethical Shopping Guide for ways you can shop ethically and change lives this Easter, learn more about how you can shop ethically at FairTrade Australia or keep an eye out for symbols on your goods from other ethical organisations, such as the Rain forest Alliance.
This Easter, let’s do good. Let’s celebrate what Christ did for us, all the while ensuring that we are making ethical decisions in all that we do.