Friday, March 30, 2007

A sweet product's sour side

Alternet posted an odd piece wondering if women enjoyed chocolate more than sex. Ironic, then, that the UK Independent published an article the same day on how that chocolate comes on to the lips of western women (and men). If the chocoholics read this article, they might lose their appetite.

The story may not be new, but it's precisely the lack of change that's making news. There was a big campaign several years ago to try to eradicate the use of child labor on cocoa farms in Côte d'Ivoire, which produces half of the world's chocolate.

Back in 2001, after an international outcry and a warning from the United States Congress, the global chocolate industry signed an agreement known as the Cocoa protocol. At first they promised to have made serious inroads towards ending the problem by July 2005. But they missed their targets, and Congress gave them three more years.
"That deadline came and went and we were very unhappy," said Eliot Engel, the Democrat congressman who initiated the protocol. "They now need to live up to that agreement. If they don't we'll make a decision in 2008.


The Independent reports that in Côte d'Ivoire, children carrying cocoa machetes are a common sight. They are kept out of school and many have untreated wounds on their legs. "I used to go to school," said Marc Yao Kwame, who works with his brother Fabrice on a remote farm. "But my father has no one to work on the farm, so he took me out of school. My mother's a long way from here. I haven't seen her for 10 years - since I was two years old."

Local officials reported that projects designed to take children off the cocoa farms and put them in school but, as one official put it, "We haven't seen any of the money."

Nestlé's slogan is 'Good food, good life.'

For whom?

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