For the next ten days I will be in Abidjan representing Green America, the Raise the Bar Campaign, and thousands of conscientious American consumers at the World Cocoa Conference 2012.
I just arrived in Abidjan after a long flight from the San Francisco Green Festival, via Paris. But, I’m very excited for what lies ahead this week.
Several campaigners from Europe (see the Ten Campaign) and I will be attending the meeting this week with one main purpose – to ensure the global chocolate industry discusses child labor prevention in a a meaningful way and makes it an immediate priority.
For background on child labor in the West African cocoa sector, read here and here. In a nutshell, since 2000, the world has largely known about the endemic problem of the Worst Forms of Child Labor on cocoa farms in West Africa, particularly in Cote D’Ivoire. Despite an immediate proposal from Senator Harkin and Congressman Engel to regulate and prevent such practices (the Harkin-Engel Protocol) abusive child labor persists. The global chocolate industry grosses billions each year and is expected to grow to $98.3 billion by 2016. Much of this teeters on the very intense and manual work of underpaid farmers and exploited children in West Africa, where more than 70% of the world’s cocoa is produced.
As with so many agricultural commodities, the producers at the start of the supply chain have little power or influence. Those of us who advocate for fair trade believe that farmers in all sectors should earn fair wages and have increased knowledge of and power in their sector, so that they can break the ongoing cycle of poverty that exists with in our current trading system.
Please watch this space to learn how the meetings go this week and how you can help.
To support this trip and cause, please consider a donation to Green America. All donations will go directly to funding this trip, as it was not something we budgeted for in 2012, but thought too important to miss.
Thank you and stay tuned!