Reverse Trick-Or-Treating Brings Child Labor Plight to Light

Halloween is a time for ghosts, goblins and the latest cartoon or sci-fi characters. And oh the candy! This year is the fifth annual Reverse Trick-or-Treating, an initiative of Global Exchange’s Sweet Smarts network, with leadership from Equal Exchange. Trick-or-treaters around the country will be handing out fair trade chocolate to over 100,000 adults who normally would be handing goodies to them.

This national giveback event focuses awareness on child slave labor, trafficking, poverty and hazardous environmental conditions rampant within the cocoa industry. (See Civil Eats coverage of this issue here and here.)

In 2003, the U.S. State Department issued a report stating that “approximately 109,000 child laborers working in hazardous conditions on cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast,” a country where “the law does not prohibit trafficking in people.”

There’s documented forced child labor in the Ivory Coast, a large source of the chocolate sold in the U.S., said Kelsie Evans, worker/co-owner of Equal Exchange, a chocolate fair trade organization that supports farming cooperatives around the world who provide sustainable farming methods.

The average cocoa farmer may earn up to $100 a year—nowhere near what it takes to take care of a family. To maximize cocoa yields, wildlife habitat gets destroyed and increased pesticide use is encouraged. All this for the gooey chocolate treats you hand out every year.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the signing of the Harkin-Engel Protocol—an agreement by this country’s largest chocolate companies to put an end to forced child labor on cocoa farms in West Africa by 2005. While some of the chocolatiers have made strides to correct these abuses, Hershey’s has done little, activists say.

Global ExchangeGreen America and the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) issued a joint report targeting Hershey named “Time to Raise the Bar, Hershey!” It details how hundreds of thousands of children are still being forced to work under abusive conditions for long hours on cocoa farms in West Africa, while others are victims of trafficking and forced labor. The documentary, “The Dark Side of Chocolate,” also profiles this sobering subject.

But change is happening. Five years ago, Global Exchange, a San Francisco-based, international humanitarian organization, partnered with Equal Exchange to create the first Reverse Trick-or-Treating event.

It’s a hard topic to talk about, says Evans. “Chocolate is seen as a source of joy in the world,” she said. But, she added, “Children grasp some of these concepts about fairness.”

Reverse Trick-or-Treating happens Halloween night, according to Kylie Nealis, the coordinator of the campaign.

“It’s kids taking action on a problem that affects other children,” she said.

“It’s a great teaching moment,” said Rodney North, The Answer Man and co-owner of Equal Exchange. “There’s a surprise factor of the child down the street is bringing the lesson to me—and you get to eat the solution.”

Originally published on Global Exchange

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