Tulane University is the world watchdog on child labor in cocoa farms. According to a recent survey, “… a projected total of 819,921 children in Ivory Coast and 997,357 children in Ghana worked on cocoa-related activities.” The report also reveals that 40% of these children are not enrolled in schools and 95% are not paid for their work.
Exploitation of children in the manufacturing supply chain also includes children in Indian carpet workshops. The US Department of Labor has uncovered evidence from international organizations, human rights groups, and non-governmental organizations describing the dangerous conditions under which children make carpets, often in bondage and without pay.
Serious long-term developmental effects
In an International Labor Organization survey of 26 countries, one quarter of child laborers suffer injuries or illnesses while working. Each year, as many as 2.7 million healthy years of life are lost due to child labor, especially in agriculture.
Developmental risks for young children involved in manufacturing and agriculture include:
- skeletal growth
- retardation of organ and tissue development
- greater risk of hearing loss
- lack of ability to assess risks
- greater need for food and rest
- higher chemical absorption rates
- growth impediments
- lower heat tolerance
What can we do to alleviate this situation?
The answer is to buy Fair Trade, which not only assures a fair price for goods produced in third-world countries, but also helps producers improve their lives and the lives of their workers through health care, education, and better working conditions. Producers who are part of Fair Trade International have a say in setting prices, premiums (money for health care and education), standards, and overall strategy. Small Fair Trade businesses must have a democratic structure and transparent administration. Workers have representatives to committees that make decisions on prices, benefits, and conditions.
Fair Trade is almost certainly the best option when it comes to buying chocolate that is slavery-free. Fair Trade chocolate in the US has grown in popularity but the market is relatively small compared to Europe. For example, recent figures show that whereas 1,745 tons of Fair Trade chocolate was imported into the US, on a worldwide basis 10,299 tons of Fair Trade chocolate products were sold.
Buying Fair Trade
It is decidedly easier to buy Fair Trade products in the United Kingdom and Europe because of the Fairtrade Foundation. All consumers need do is look for the organization’s label on a product when they are shopping. The group provides an independent certification of the production chain and licensing use of the FAIRTRADE Mark as a consumer guarantee on products. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions and securing the rights of marginalized producers and workers.
Here in the U.S. we have to seek out Fair Trade products by doing some research. This list of retailers, compiled by greenamerica.org will get you started. Their National Green Pages is a “Yellow Pages” for green and sustainable businesses nationwide.
Compassionate Essentials is dedicated to the goals of Fair Trade, offering shoppers access to Fair Trade products on our web site.