Tenth Anniversary of the Harkin-Engel “Cocoa” Protocol   Leave a comment

September 19th marks the tenth anniversary of the Harkin-Engel Protocol aka the Cocoa Protocol, which is an international agreement signed by major chocolate companies to end forced child labor on cocoa plantations in West Africa. To make the story short, that hasn’t happened. The protocol contained specific objectives with deadlines, but deadlines have slipped by several years, and little progress has been made. I’m not going to get into much background here since I’m not an expert on that side of the issue. As usual, Wikipedia has some info, and GreenAmerica has info and campaigns including a letter-writing campaign to Hershey (one of the worst laggards) and a film investigating the current status of forced child labor.

I’m not very consistent at advocacy, but do much better at action. In this case the major action is to buy fair trade chocolate, since the certification for child labor-free chocolate has not yet been developed. There’s plenty of fair trade chocolate available, although since I don’t shop at a mainstream grocery store I don’t know how accessible it is there. There are several companies and organizations that sell many varieties of fair trade including Dagoba, Green & Black (Maya Gold only), Divine, Theo, Sjaaks, Equal Exchange, SERRV International, Alter Eco, Global Exchange, and Grounds for Change. In our house we use only fair trade cocoa products. Even at work and movies I rarely consume “conventional” chocolate (although I must confess that’s also because I dislike milk chocolate and find most candy bars way too sweet and decidedly not satisfying). I’m not under the delusion that I could convince anyone else to avoid candy bars, but the way I see it any increase in market share for fair trade chocolate manufacturers and corresponding decrease in market share for “conventional” chocolate manufacturers is a good movement that will continue to build momentum.

With Halloween coming out I wish I could say: buy fair trade chocolate to give out to trick-or-treaters. But I won’t. We buy a container of mini-bars of fair trade chocolates because even though the kids who consume them will never even notice or care about the label (or as my husband points out, might actually throw it away since I can only get dark chocolate minis), I just cannot give my money to Hershey or any other objectionable chocolate manufacturer. But it is expensive! And frustratingly difficult to find. For the life of me I cannot figure out why there isn’t more marketing of mini-chocolates around Halloween. Instead there is marketing of “reverse trick-or-treating” in which you get a kit with fair trade mini-chocolates stuck onto postcards, and then as your kids go trick-or-treating they hand these chocolates and postcards to the people handing out candy. When I have a kid who goes trick-or-treating, I’ll probably do this, but for now all I can do is put my money where my mouth is for the candy I give out. I very much encourage anyone who does have a trick-or-treater at home to consider reverse trick-or-treating. You can search for it online to find kits (Equal Exchange and Global Exchange do it, and there may be others).

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Posted September 19, 2011 by mayakey in advocacy, fair trade, food

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