by Margot Conover, External Relations Manager
Valentine’s Day wouldn’t be complete without chocolate – the National Retail Federation confirms it, estimating that US consumers will spend $1.8 billion on candy this February 14th. But the story behind chocolate may leave a bad taste in your mouth.
This blog was originally published on the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs website.
Small-holder farmers and farmworkers in the United States face overwhelming
challenges through climate change, dangerous working conditions, child
labor, and power imbalances. As unacceptable as conditions in the U.S. may
be, the farmers in the Global South growing our cocoa face the same
conditions, magnified ten-fold. Cocoa is not grown in the U.S., but by
supporting fair trade, advocates and conscious consumers connected to
domestic farmer and farmworker issues offer solidarity to the men and women
impacted by the cocoa industry. That’s why Fairtrade America supports
domestic farmworker advocacy organizations, like the Coalition of Immokalee
Workers and Equitable Food Initiative, that use product labeling to verify
that the people in the supply chain were treated fairly. Service delivery
organizations like AFOP H&S also provide valuable support to
farmworkers in dealing with job safety risks; Fairtrade America is proud to
stand in solidarity with this work in the U.S. We all need to be in this
together, or the power imbalances will never be resolved.
Take child labor in cocoa for example –
In West Africa, which supplies the overwhelming majority of the world’s
cocoa, millions of children are at-risk or involved in child labor.
It’s estimated that
2.12 million children
, some as young as five years old, worked in the 2013-2014 harvest
season in Ghana and Ivory Coast alone. Many of these children are also
victims of forced labor and human trafficking, in the wake of human and
natural disasters and poverty.
Child labor in agriculture is ubiquitous around the world,
including the U.S
., where children aged 12 are permitted to do the work of an adult. The
Department of Labor
estimates that 71% of the 218 million children engaged in worst forms of
child labor work in agriculture. Because of the sheer scale and
universality of the problem, finding a solution demands a concerted effort
from all stakeholders, including the farmers and workers themselves.
When companies use Fairtrade ingredients, small-scale farmers are better
able to achieve dignified livelihoods that don’t force them to resort to
exploitative child labor. In addition, Fairtrade works with communities to
build awareness of the issue and protect children in their communities.
Fairtrade’s innovative youth-inclusive, community-based approach to
addressing child labor works with cocoa farming communities all over the
Anita Sheth, Fairtrade’s child and forced labor specialist explains the
approach: “Fairtrade was the first international value chain labeling
organization of its kind to call for and implement a systemwide,
rights-based child protection policy and procedure for the elimination of
the worst forms of child labor. Since 2009, we’ve used a rights-based
approach based on internationally accepted human rights standards to
strengthen the protection of girls and boys at risk of being, or already
involved in child labor.
“Every allegation or alert triggers a rigorous assessment involving input
and advice from the relevant child rights organizations or experts. If
confirmed, a report is sent to the appropriate government agency to follow
up. If we have any doubts about their willingness or ability to act, we’ll
involve a reputable specialist NGO.” (
Learn more about Anita’s work here.
Fairtrade empowers communities to reduce child labor and child
Click to learn more
about how Fairtrade uses pricing and standards to empower communities
to reduce child labor and child trafficking.
is only one of many products where Fairtrade works with farmers to change
the conditions that cause child labor. If this tickles your palate, you can
learn more about how certification impacts the other ingredients in your
favorite chocolate bars – like
vanilla from Madagascar
sugar from Belize.
Consumers can make an impact
Fairtrade and the farmers we serve are working hard to address child labor
and human trafficking, but consumer activists like you play an important
role. You have the power to shape how farmers and workers are treated and
to reduce exploitation of children both in the U.S. and around the world.
Human trafficking happens because of the basic principles of supply and
demand. As a consumer, you can demand ethically-made products, and
companies will listen. Through simple, everyday actions, like purchasing
you can help protect children, reduce poverty, and prevent trafficking.
Many of the values of the U.S. farmworker justice and local consumption
movements are in line with those that drive Fairtrade, such as:
the desire to support small-scale family farming
the desire to support sustainable farming
the desire to avoid large corporate intermediaries
the desire to know who grew the food, a connectedness or transparency
the desire to buy directly, or at least more directly
the wish for more of the purchase price would reach the farmer
the wish for fair treatment and wages for farmworkers
Ultimately, our movements all share a similar vision – getting consumers
and producers to think not just about what they produce/purchase, but how
it comes to us.
Here’s how you can help:
To learn more about the connections between US and international
agriculture and to take action to protect vulnerable children, follow these
Go to SlaveryFootprint.org
to understand your connection to modern-day slavery and write to your
favorite brands to ask them for stronger policies against child and
Share your knowledge! Host a screening of
“The Dark Side of Chocolate”
, a behind the scenes investigation of the international cocoa trade.
Celebrate Valentine’s Day by sharing Fairtrade certified chocolate with
your loved ones, or enjoying a bar yourself!
Learn more about what other ethical gifts are available
, and how to say everything from “Will you marry me?” to “Isn’t being
single great???” with Fairtrade!