Thursday, January 13, 2011

Fair trade chocolate, again

This morning, Avaaz.org is in my inbox with an appeal asking that we use its handy-dandy email form to send letters to chocolate companies that have dealings with chocolate exporters in Ivory Coast. Apparently, Laurent Gbagbo, recently defeated president of Ivory Coast, is clinging to power in the country, backed by militias who are being supported with funds from corrupt cocoa companies. The country is on the verge of civil war, and UN Peacekeepers are in danger, too. Alassane Ouattara, the winner of the recent democratic election, has yet to get anywhere near his rightful place as leader of the country. Avaaz urges, "Chocolate lovers of the world, let's flood popular brands like Nestlé, M&M/Mars and Hershey's with messages to end trade with Gbagbo now and commit to working only with the legitimate government."

If you want to participate in Avaaz's efforts, here's a link: https://secure.avaaz.org/en/ivory_coast_chocolate/?cl=907308509&v=8161

Avaaz has provided all sorts of information regarding its reasons for this initiative. Here are two that caught my attention:

Hot Chocolate: How cocoa fueled the conflict in Côte d'Ivoire - A report by Global Witness, June 2007:
http://www.globalwitness.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/cotedivoire.pdf%20

Ending Child Trafficking in West Africa: Lessons from the Ivorian cocoa sector - Anti-Slavery International, December 2010:
http://www.antislavery.org/includes/documents/cm_docs/2010/c/cocoa_report_for_website.pdf 

As good as all of this is, it doesn't quite go far enough yet. If Avaaz really wanted to have an impact, they might suggest that consumers vote with their pocketbooks and stop buying chocolate from those companies that deal with unethical cocoa sources. So far, people haven't quite put the pieces together to the point that fair trade chocolate is the only chocolate of choice. But my mother-in-law has gotten the message, and this year for Christmas, she gave our family some marvelous fair trade bars and chocolate chips! It's one way to ensure that consumer power is supporting the good of people and the planet.

Fair trade chocolate isn't yet a choice where most people buy chocolate. Maybe it's time we approach our convenience/grocery store managers and suggest that they consider supplying Cocoa Camino bars, or the Ten Thousand Village brand. Know of any others to suggest? Let me know!

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