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Feb 132012

By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

On Valentine’s Day, we think chocolate, and maybe roses, but, OK…mostly chocolate.

Sweet Earth's Fair Trade Valentine's Chocolate

Rich, sweet, velvety, dark, crunchy (or smooth) chocolate. Wonderful, comforting, dopamine-inducing chocolate.

Yet there’s a battle being fought for your chocolate heart; that is, your consumer loyalties.

While big chocolate producers try to win you over at every holiday with their latest confections, many smaller chocolate makers are increasingly visible on the scene with another proposition. They want you to consider buying quality Fair Trade chocolate because it helps sustain small, independent cocoa farmers in Central and South America, or in the  Ghana/Ivory Coast region of Africa where the majority of the world’s cocoa is farmed.

Can protein justify chocolate?

Fair Trade chocolate brands have been multiplying in recent years, partly in response to reports that African workers in non-Fair Trade cocoa fields are overworked and underpaid, and that some big plantations continue to use child labor, despite promises to stop. That has prompted local groups, the Ghanian government and Fair Trade advocates to set up alternative means of producing cocoa that better protect the workers.

The result on the consumer side has been a growing number of Fair Trade brands such as Equal Exchange, Alter Eco, Divine, Theo and Sweet Earth (bonus: those last two are made in the US), as well as brands that offer some Fair Trade products, such as Dagoba or Green&Black’s.

You can find these Fair Trade chocolates and cocoa mixes online, in boutiques, natural food markets and occasionally at mainstream stores.

Many Fair Trade brands are supplied by worker cooperatives, which must be run democratically, ecologically and transparently as part of the Fair Trade requirements. Equal Exchange chocolate and cocoa powder comes from a worker’s coop.

Divine Chocolate, which is supplied and partly owned by a farmer-owned coop in Ghana called Kuapa Kokoo, was among the earliest of the Fair Trade brands to emerge.

Kuapa Kokoo was organized in 1993 and thanks to the Internet, you can see how this worker-friendly co-op empowers small cocoa farmers and welcomes women into its leadership ranks.

The first video posted here features Francis Bediako-Manu, 51, who lives in Mem in the Mansu area. He is a grower with about 15 acres of cocoa trees that produce around 30 bags of beans annually. Here he explains why Kuapa Kokoo’s cocoa beans are “papapaa!” The second video (below) highlights how women help lead the project.

The Kuapa Kokoo co-op has helped communities build schools and water wells. It’s been especially good for women, who help run the cocoa operation and operate other small businesses that tide over their families between harvests.

Copyright © 2012 Green Right Now | Distributed by GRN Network

Oct 222010

By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

If you want to act on your concern for the environment and human rights this Halloween, give treats that come from reputable local or Fair Trade vendors.

That could mean foregoing some familiar brands.

Hershey’s, under fire for some time over allegations that it fails to ensure its cocoa sources treat labor fairly, came out dead last this week on the “Get Child Labor Out of Your Chocolates Scorecard” by Green America.

Make Halloween more fair with Fair Trade Chocolate (Photo: Sweet Earth Chocolate)

The scorecard, readied in time for Halloween, is designed to help consumers buy more responsibly sourced chocolate that’s been certified as Fair Trade.

Fair Trade chocolate requires wholesalers to treat laborers fairly, and forbids forced or child labor and other abusive work practices.

The scorecard lists several brands that got an “A” for being certified Fair Trade vendors — and designates which ones sell bite size candies:

Other brands with high marks included Green and Black’s Fair Trade Maya Gold bar and Dagoba’s Conacado Bar.

The adjudicators at the nonprofit Green America gave a “D” to Kraft, Mars and Nestles offerings, and an “F” to Hershey.

Hersheys reported solid third quarter earnings this week, but did not issue a response to the Green America report card either on its website or in its third quarter report.

Kraft and Mars ranked lower on the report card because the certification they rely upon, the Rainforest Alliance, is a weaker verification system. Although it forbids unfair labor practices, it does not require buyers to pay a specific minimum price for cocoa beans and only 30 percent of the primary ingredient needs to be certified to earn the label. Mars, however, has announced it will be strengthening supply chain controls.

Green America suggests that consumers look for the Fair Trade candy locally, as well as online, and keeps a list of local Fair Trade chocolate, coffee and sugar retailers.

Those who want to know more about labor abuses in the cocoa supply chain (cocoa is sourced from Latin America and Africa) may want to see the movie The Dark Side of Chocolate, by filmmakers Miki Mistrati and U. Robin Romano, who traveled to cocoa farms in Cote d’Ivoire to document worker exploitation.

Equal Exchange also carries a reading list of sources for those who want to learn more about child labor abuses in the cocoa/chocolate industries.

On Halloween, thousands of older children participate in “Reverse Trick or Treating” to champion the cause of cocoa workers. Global Exchange sponsors and carries the details about this information campaign, in which kids distribute fliers about the problem while handing a Fair Trade treat to people who greet them at the door.

Abuse of child cocoa laborers in parts of Africa have been documented in a report by The Payson Center for International Development at Tulane University. The center released its fourth annual report on the issue on Sept. 30. Researchers found that many workers, particularly in Cote d’Ivoire, were children living away from their parents. “Virtually all” had experienced verbal, physical and sexual abuse, according to Green America.

Green America Corporate Social Responsiblity Director Todd Larsen explained in a statement that his group wants the parents who buy chocolate to know they can do something to fight child labor practices by spending their money differently.

“While Hershey pays its CEO $8 million annually, the company is doing little to end the practice of forced child labor in cocoa-growing regions, where many children are not paid for their labor and are abused,” Larsen said. “This corporate giant is hoping that parents will throw up their hands and just go along as they always have in the past.  Our message is simple:   You can be sure that you are not putting child slave labor in your child’s Halloween bag or those of other children.”

Green America, based in Washington D.C., aims to create a more just and sustainable society and work marketplace.

Copyright © 2010 Green Right Now | Distributed by GRN Network

Jan 262009

By Laura Elizabeth May
Green Right Now

Now that you have had a month to lose any extra holiday pounds, Valentine’s Day is here and that means more chocolate! Yea! Plan ahead this Valentine’s Day and buy Fair Trade chocolates for your special someone, while helping to end world poverty.

Fair Trade chocolate has met certain requirements to ensure that the workers in developing nations producing the cocoa beans are receiving fair wages. Fair trade also ensures that there are no children enslaved to the process, and that all farmers have a safe and healthy working environment. Purchasing fair trade chocolate lets your sweetie know you care about others as well as him/her.

You can find fair trade chocolate at online stores, Sweet Earth Organic Chocolates, based in San Luis Obispo, and Equal Exchange, based in West Bridgewater, Mass. Chocolate from both of these companies also is organic.

Going organic is another way to green your Valentine’s Day chocolate.  Do not be fooled by the term “All Natural,” when buying sweets. In order to be organic, chocolate has to be free of chemical pesticides, so the cocoa beans and other ingredients, like milk, must have been grown or processed under USDA guidelines for organics. These products will carry the USDA certification stamp. For more info, see Fair Trade’s FAQ on the topic.

Amazon.com offers a wide variety of organic chocolates, including Green&Black’s espresso, caramel, hazelnut and white variations. Dagoba is an artisan company that specializes in organic chocolates and adheres to strict standards set by its chef founder. Gourmands might enjoy the Drinking Chocolate Trio or Xocoatal Cocoa Nibs with chili peppers and other exotic combinations.

Want a pretty box, or need vegan options? Check out Sjaak’s Organic Chocolates, based in San Francisco (with Dutch origins).

Just remember you need time for shipping, so order soon.

Once you have ordered the goodies, a recycled card may be apropos. Hallmark’s Product Red cards are printed on recycled paper and benefit AIDs victims in Africa.

Looking for one more earth friendly gift idea? Skip the roses this year. Buy her (or him) a plant that your honey can keep forever. Indoor plants help cleanse the air and will last longer than the roses. If you want to go the extra mile, plant an rose bush in the garden for an (almost) endless blooms.

Copyright © 2009 Green Right Now | Distributed by Noofangle Media