Chocolates and Roses: Slavery and Rape

By Uniongal
Crossposted from Uniongal

It's that corporate holiday where men and women show how much they love through the purchase and giving of chocolates and flowers.

But did you know that cocoa exported from West Africa is primarily produced using child slave labor? That women working on flower plantations are routinely harassed or raped in Central and South America? Did you also know that there is something you can actually do about this?



Just in case you missed my previous slaves to Chocolate Posts and Cut Flower one, I've included the links.

But where do Chocolates and cut Flowers come from?
Image Hosted by ImageShack.usChocolates:
From the Anti-Slavery Society

Cocoa is the essential ingredient for making chocolates. A significant proportion of the world production of cocoa is grown and harvested on plantations by African slaves.


By far, the largest producer of chocolate for the World Market of cocoa is Cote d'Ivoire.

Cote d'Ivoire produces about 40% of the world supply of cocoa, and this cocoa comes from about 600,000 total farms in the very small West African country. During the Cote d'Ivoire civil war, both the government and the insurgents used the cocoa farms to supply their war craft, however, what they caused by pillaging the farms was a need for workers. And these workers were bought or stolen from Mali and other African nations like Niger, Nigeria and others.

Due to wars and poverty, those stolen or purchased (ugh, what a horrible thing to have to write) were disproportinately children (as if there is such a thing as a slave that proportionate to population). Buzzflash noted that

The U.S. State Department estimates that over 15,000 child-slaves work on plantations in the Ivory Coast. They have been kidnapped or sold by their parents to work from age 8 on cutting cocoa pods from trees and processing them, often at the end of a whip. In other countries of West Africa, children work with deadly chemicals, applying pesticides and fungicides to trees without wearing protective garments and without proper training. Amazingly, some of the cocoa used in popular confections - the chocolate you eat every day is grown and harvested under such conditions.


It's a horrendous situation for thousands of children. This is a real problem caused by poverty and war and held in place by greed and abuse:

An investigative report by the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) in 2000 indicated the size of the problem. According to the BBC, hundreds of thousands of children are being purchased from their parents for a pittance, or in some cases outright stolen, and then shipped to the Ivory Coast, where they are sold as slaves to cocoa farms. These children typically come from countries such as Mali, Burkina Faso, and Togo. Destitute parents in these poverty-stricken lands sell their children to traffickers believing that they will find honest work once they arrive in Ivory Coast and then send some of their earnings home. But that's not what happens. These children, usually 12-to-14-years-old but sometimes younger, are forced to do hard manual labor 80 to 100 hours a week. They are paid nothing, are barely fed, are beaten regularly, and are often viciously beaten if they try to escape. Most will never see their families again.


But, what can I do to help?

First, contact Hershey, Nestle and M&M/Mars.

Hershey, Nestle and M&M/Mars continue to utilize cocoa harvested by children who are beaten, chained and abused in the pursuit of meeting the World's sweet tooth habit.

Since 2001, we have heard the same talking points from major chocolate companies about what they are doing about child labor, but the practice still continues. Please join us today in getting beyond the talking points and asking Hershey, M&M/Mars and Nestle what each company is doing specifically to ensure they are respecting internationally recognized labor rights in their cocoa sourcing.


Second: BUY LOCAL!

It's not as if cocoa is produced in your back yard, but local chocolatiers often utilize co-ops and fair trade farms due to the quality of the cocoa produced. They chose farms with good practices because good growing and labor practices produce a better quality cocoa. I only know this based on conversations I've had with DC area chocolatiers who often visit farms and co-ops before agreeing to purchase from those farms. From JChocolatier:

We use chocolate couverture from El Rey of Venezuela and Valrhona of France. The beans from El Rey are single origin Criollo beans, the most coveted in the world. El Rey buys their beans from small farmers in Venezuela who grow their crop under the shade of the jungle canopy. El Rey is committed to biodiversity and pays their farmers premium prices for the high quality beans that they produce.
Our classic truffles are made with single origin Manjari chocolate from Valrhona. This particular chocolate couverture has a cult-like following among discriminating chocolate lovers. The Valrhona cocoa powder is deep red and has a silky texture. It is without a doubt, the best we've ever tasted.


If a local chocolatier can't tell you where the chocolate comes from, ask. If they still can't answer, perhaps you need to find another.

Third: BUY FAIR TRADE!

From Dengre's commentin the first Slaves to Chocolates Diary (I bolded three that the International Labor Rights Forum noted as the Sweetest of the Sweet for their labor, sustainability and dedication to their craft):

Do not discount Fair Trade Chocolate from Africa (2+ / 0-)

This is the way to combat child labor while still supporting the local economies.
Below is a list of Fair Trade Chocolate Companies. They have passed the screening and review of the Fair Trade Federation and Co-op America's Green Business Network:

A World Away, Atlantic Beach, FL
904/247-4411, www.aworldaway.net

Alter Eco, San Francisco, CA
415/701-1212, www.altereco-usa.com

Ananse Village, Fort Bragg, CA
877/242-4467, www.anansevillage.com

Bean North Coffee Roasting Company,
Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada
867/667-4145, www.beannorth.com

Café Humana, Seattle, WA,
866/7-HUMANA, www.cafehumana.com

Dean's Beans, Orange, MA, 800/325-3008,
www.deansbeans.com

Divine Chocolate USA, Washington, DC,
202/332-8913, www.divinechocolateusa.com


Equal Exchange, West Bridge, MA,
774/776-7333, www.equalexchange.com


Equita, Pittsburgh, PA
412/353-0109, www.shopequita.com

Fair World Gallery, West Des Moines, IA,
515/277-7550, www.fairworldgallery.com

Fair World Marketplace, DeWitt, NY
315/446-0326, www.fairworldmarketplace.com

Global Exchange Fair Trade Store,
San Francisco, CA 800/505-4410,
store.gxonlinestore.org

Grounds for Change , Poulsbo, WA,
800/796-6820, www.groundsforchange.com

Ithaca Fine Chocolates , Ithaca, NY,
607/257-7954, www.ithacafinechocolates.com

La Siembra Cooperative, Inc., Ottowa,
Ontario, Canada, 613/235-6122,
www.cocoacamino.com

Providence Coffee, Faribault, MN,
507/412-1733, www.providencecoffee.com

SERRV International, Madison, WI,
800/423-0071, www.serrv.org/divine

Shaman Chocolates, Soquel, CA,
877/990-3337, www.shamanchocolates.com

Sweet Earth Organic Chocolates,
San Luis Obispo, CA. 805/544-7759,
www.sweetearthchocolates.com


Yachana Gourmet, Batavia, NY.
716/343-4490, www.yachanagourmet.com


You can also head to the online Global Exchange store for more Fair Trade products.

So this brings us to Flowers.

Where do flowers that you buy in the store or on line come from?
Image Hosted by ImageShack.usFlowers come most often from Central and South America.

They are often produced using female workers who toil up to 20 hours a day for little pay. Many are abused and isolated from their communities and families to produce the tulips and roses and orchids that adorn our tables.

But there's a movement to push the producers to provide better working conditions, pay and benefits to these workers, and there's been some really amazing recent successes most notably from Dole as described by the International Labor Rights Forum.

After years of struggle, Dole flower workers on both the Splendor and La Fragancia plantations in Colombia have signed contracts with the company!

The new contracts include pay increases, punctuality bonuses, and extra pay for workers doing difficult and dangerous work. Workers at the La Fragancia plantation will now receive an education subsidy so that they buy the books and uniforms they need to send their children to school.


But Dole isn't the only player in the market. Many are now figuring out that Fair Trade certified and organic flowers have a market, even in the US. Just last year for Valentine's Day, Frontline produced a 10 minute segment on Equador and the Fair Trade movement. I'd embed the video if I could, but apparently, I can't.

But, what can I do?
Look for Fair Trade Certified and Organic cut flowers. They may be produced locally or internationally. But to find them, you have to ask.
You can also go to:

Online Retailers:
1-800 Flowers Online

Organic Bouquet

Supermarkets Near You:

GIANT Food Stores
Heinen's
Roche Brothers


There is more good news in Flowers than Cocoa right now. However, more work is needed in both sectors. The starting point isn't just consumers, it's also suppliers (from the comments on the PBS video):

KS Kennedy Distinctive Floral - Pittsburgh, PA
As florists, it is our responsibility not only to bring magic into the lives of our customers but to understand that without these workers, we could not exisit. My customers are thrilled that we are taking steps to join groups that are concerned about the well being of flower production workers. We have recently joined the FLP group in Europe and will continue to be aware of those farms working to make a difference for those who dedicate their lives as their living. Please consider joining as well to show the United States show of suppport..Its a mere $93.00 for a year! Kerry S Kennedy http://www.fairflowers.de/136.html

Kara Diorio - Lowell, MA
As co-owner of a small flower shop we are proud to sell Organic Nevado Roses. This documentary reinforced my commitment to support the women and families who work in the industry. Nevado roses are the most beautiful, longest lasting, fragrant roses I have ever seen! The beauty of every rose they grow reflects the respect for their employees and environment. As women in business, my sister and I are grateful to be given the opportunity to support an amazing Fair Trade product. Kara and Leah, Finally Flowers, Lowell MA


But if we're going to look for socially conscious products, the best way, is to start at home, with our own cupboards.

Start by no longer purchasing Nestle, M&M Mars and also Hershey products and by sending them a note as to why you're boycotting them. Let them know that they can't expect hard working Americans to continue to support slavery through chocolates. Let them know that workers deserve a fair shake, a fair wage and adequate benefits and that when they decide to be good corporate citizens (and, especially after Hershey decided to close their Reading Pennsylvania plant) you'll decide to be a customer of theirs once more. We have power together and that power comes from our own pocket books.

Have a very happy Valentine's Day everyone!!

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