Today was a typical morning for me and I rolled out of bed with great expectation and with supreme enthusiasm only to discover that my chocolate sushi bar had been raided by my nieces and nephews last night (all the delicious candy was gone).
As a chocolate lover I was sort of bereaved and stood beside myself with grief as the constant urge for my synthetic high took over my senses, I really wanted to chastise them for being so inconsiderate but I just decided to change the location of my stash the next time they are over to spend the night.
I recognize this was a big deal to me although it was not to them, it was the principal that I felt that they should understand, and so I wanted to teach them without yelling and screaming at them, so I decided to first calm down and then to reason with them over this issue.
As it turns out next week came and the kids were over my house again doing there usual caravanning and marching through out the house as one of there customary games. It became extremely important to me that I convene with them over this issue, so I called a meeting of the minds so that we could discuss this innocent crime, the taking or stealing of property without asking, and most importantly of course eating all my candy without considering the fact that I wanted some too.
They say that the kids today are weaker but wiser than we were as children and I always seem to question that concept but today I had first hand experience to the remarkable reality of this concept, I began to question them about this theft.
Here is what they said. Yes we did take your chocolate and we did do it without your permission and we are sorry for that fact, but let us explain why we did this and we hope that you can forgive us for doing it, we meant you no disrespect and no harm for we love you and we know you love us. They went on to say that they had done some research on chocolate the origins of chocolate and the manufactures of chocolate. (This was smart because they knew that I don't except hearsay and that I am an adamant researcher and so they also knew that I wouldn't accept anything without proof.
Now before I go on to tell you their findings let me reiterate that I love chocolate and I have been this way sense I was a child. At that moment I suspected a con in the works by my sister's children but I had decided to give them the benefit of the doubt, and I let them complete their admission without interruptions.
They told me that chocolate was developed and manufactured by the use of a long and delicate process that starts with the cacao tree. This marvelous tree grows in humid, tropical regions on plantations in what is known as the "cacao belt" which is countries beyond the equator. Evidently the only place hot enough where this tree will grow. Although two thirds of the world's cocoa bean production comes from Africa (Ghana, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, etc.), producing countries are present throughout the "cacao belt" and include Brazil, Venezuela, Mexico, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Colombia, the Caribbean islands, Jamaica, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka.
Just as the geography is different, so too are the beans grown in all these various countries. Each has a personality, a certain something not present in the others. The fruit of the cacao tree, called a pod, presents a rather startling appearance, as it grows right on the tree trunk. A pod weighs between 200 and 800 grams (7 to 27 ounces) and takes 5 to 6 months to arrive at maturity.This revelation in and of itself was startling to me because they knew so must information I was astounded yet I didn't let them know that fact.
There are three families of cacao trees; the criollo is of exceptional quality, highly aromatic, and almost without bitterness. It is used by luxury chocolate makers, relatively rare (this family is actually disappearing) and very expensive, we use these to make Grand Cru chocolates with unique flavor. Criollo cocoa beans are grown, for the most part, in South America.
The second one is the forastero which is originally from the Upper Amazon and is to cocoa what robusta is to coffee. It has a very pronounced, full-bodied flavor. Today this ordinary cocoa bean is grown mainly in Africa. It accounts for 85% of the world's production.
Finally the third one is called the trinitario which is the result of hybridization between the other two families and is named for the island of Trinidad. It combines the delicate savor of the criollo and the force of the forastero. Cocoa beans can be harvested all year long.
In many countries, however, there are two production peaks: November to January and May to July. Harvesting is a delicate operation, as the cacao tree is too fragile for the picker to climb it. Instead, he uses a long pole equipped with a sharp blade. The maturity of a cocoa pod is measured by its color change, from green to yellow or from red to orange, and by the hollow sound it makes when struck. Once picked, the fruit is split with a machete, an operation requiring much hand labor. Each pod can contain up to 40 beans, which are surrounded by a white pulp called mucilage. Embedded in the pulp were dark, purple-colored seeds that, after being dried and processed would lend the production hand to the resulting chocolate in which I so loved.
Hey they were so good at telling and instructing me concerning this topic I completely forgot about chastising them and I just sat in awe while listening to them expound on the subject further. However the subject that they wanted to express to me was not just about the chocolate or the recipe for making chocolate, the crux of there tale was more shocking and more alerting than I could imagine.
They went on to tell me that the chocolate that I had eaten since I was a child was made from manufactures who buy their beans from a pool of cacao beans which means that these beans came from many sources throughout the cacao belt and in turn which meant that there arises questions as to where did these beans come from, who produces them, and under what circumstance were these beans manufactured?
Well I knew very little, at the time, about this so I was intent on doing some research later on, but by this time I had become engulfed with growing interest that I listened on. As per their story they told me that they had researched these questions themselves and discovered that chocolate (or at least 85% of it) was harvest and developed through the illegal use of child labor, child trafficking and child slavery, children who were most likely kidnapped from neighboring boarders. These children are currently being abused working 80 to 100 hours a week, beaten to a pulp, boxed in at night like animals, those who have died as a result of slavery in addition to over worked and this is done in the pursuit of production in favor of manufacturing chocolate.
So ... knowing that some chocolate is made with slave labor, I don't see how someone could knowingly buy such chocolate again. Luckily, not all chocolate is tainted - by slavery or even milder forms of labor abuse. There are lots of issues related to chocolate slavery - poverty, power, politics and more. If you want some chocolate, but don't want to exploit people, Fair Trade chocolate is probably your best bet. "Fair trade" was a term coined fairly recently, apparently in contradiction to so-called free trade.
In the Fair Trade system, purchasers of products like coffee and cocoa beans, bananas, and sugar typically agree to pay an above market price for the products. The extra money is intended to help the small farms and co-operatives selling the products to make lasting improvements in their communities, by going towards schools, hospitals, and other improvements in infrastructure. The purchasers of the products, meanwhile, who are typically companies intending to import and sell the products yet again in another country, can then label the products as "Fair Trade certified", which lets the end consumer know that he or she isn't colluding in exploitation against some poor third world farmer. And thus, in theory, everyone is happy.
Cote d'™voire is a country in the west of Africa which produces more than 40% of the world's s cocoa crop. In 2001 reports confirmed widespread child labor on cocoa farms in Cote d' Ivoire and hundreds of children being trafficked from nearby Mali. The conditions these children were working in was characterized as dangerous and they were forced to work long hours.1 In 2002 a study by the Sustainable Tree Crops Program of the Institute of Tropical Agriculture of Cameroon, Cote d' Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea and Nigeria claimed that there were at least 284,000 children trapped in forced labor in the West African cocoa industry. The majority of these (200,000) were to be found in Cote d'Ivoire. Many of these child laborers were discovered to have been trafficked from Mali, Burkina Faso, and Togo. The ILO is in the process of commissioning new studies to verify this research. Despite this fact, the ILO does not dismiss the findings and considers them as a part of the evidence of widespread child trafficking to the cocoa industry. 153,000 children were found to be forced to apply pesticides without protective clothing, and 64% of the children on cocoa farms were under the age of 16. Forty percent of child laborers were girls.2
The 2000 US State Department Human Rights report said â€œIt is estimated that some 15,000 Malian children work on Ivorian cocoa and coffee plantations. Many are under 12 years-of-age, sold into indentured servitude for $140 (100,000 FCFA), and work 12-hour days for $135 to $189 (95,000 to 125,000 FCFA) per year. "The vast majority of children will be working on cocoa plantations. As a result of these accusations US Senator Tom Harkin and Representative Eliot Engel proposed a bill, which would require the chocolate industry to certify all their chocolate as 'slave free.'"
The Cocoa industry successfully lobbied against this on the premise that the supply chain for Cocoa is very complex with middlemen buying the beans and mixing them before selling them on to conglomerate buyers such as Nestle, ADM and Cargill. NGOs such as the International Labor Rights Fund argued that as these three controlled the market they could very well determine under what conditions they bought the beans. An argument was made to say that many families employ their own children on farms so that they learn skills for the future. This is a good cultural argument, but if it leads to children not receiving an education then it must be challenged and it of course does not apply to trafficked children.
By the way the kids gave my chocolate to some homeless people down the street, a good deed that I couldn't punish them for. I reverted to telling them to ask next time before taking anything from anyone because it's the right thing to do, nevertheless I was truly proud of them for taking charge plus for educating me on an extreme topic, and I told them as much.