Students in Year 7 and members of the Eco Warriors have been learning about chocolate. Specifically, about the Cocoa industry in West Africa and the use of child labour by some major producers of chocolate.
The majority of cocoa farmers in West Africa work on small farms. Many children and adults must work to harvest cocoa for global consumption. Often families live in poverty and children must work to help support their family. Typically adult farmers are paid poorly for the cocoa they harvest, further compounding the issue. In other cases, children are trafficked and forced to harvest cocoa. Children as young as six years old work on cocoa farms under extremely hazardous conditions. Their work includes carrying heavy loads, using machetes to clear land and inhaling harmful pesticides. Labouring in extreme heat is also common in West African countries, where midday temperatures can average 30-35 degrees throughout the year and the tropical climate means high humidity and a torrential wet season.
Child labour is any kind of work that deprives a child of their childhood, their potential and dignity, and that is harmful to their physical and mental development. It may include work that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children; that interferes with their schooling by depriving them of the opportunity to attend school; causes them to leave school prematurely or requires them to attempt to combine school attendance with excessively long and heavy work.
As consumers, we have the power to make choices about the companies we will support. In this case, will we choose to support brands associated with the child labour industry or opt for brands which we know are working towards fair trade conditions for their workers? Ethical certification schemes such as Fairtrade International, Rainforest Alliance and UTZ Certified help ensure a better deal for farmers and better conditions for workers through minimum labour, pricing and production standards. When a company sources from certified farms and maintains the appropriate environmental, social and economic standards, it may display the ethical certification logo on the package of the cocoa product.
As a result of consumer demand, there is an increasing presence of ethically certified goods in Australia. However, this is still limited to only a handful of chocolate bars from leading chocolate companies which are made from ethical cocoa. Around 95 percent of global cocoa supplies still remain uncertified against the use of forced, child and trafficked labour.
2021 is the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour. All members of the Siena Community are invited to help make this goal possible by examining their consumer choices and opting for brands that maintain the dignity and protect the rights of all people.
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