Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Stop the Traffik by Steve Chalke with Cherie Blair (review)

Stop the Traffic by Steve Chalke
with Cherie Blair
Copyright 2009
A Lion Book - Nonfiction
160 pages
Stop the Traffik website

Traffickers exploit need. The people they prey on are those struggling with poverty, desperate to improve their lot in life. Often, it is the women and girls who are lured into the sex trade with empty promises of money and travel, of well-paid jobs as cleaners, au pairs, waitresses, bartenders or models. In West Africa, for example, it is the children of the poor, especially boys, who are drawn into the cocoa plantations of the Ivory Coast (Côte d'Ivoire) with empty promises of food and money. Before they know it, these people - people with the same hopes, needs and dreams as us - have been trapped, sold, shipped off and forced into a life of unimaginable humiliation and suffering.

I'm going to keep this review short because I have a bit of a stomach virus, but there are two things in particular that I learned from this book which really jumped out at me. One is that human trafficking occurs everywhere - not just in third-world nations, but also in places like Great Britain and the United States.

As I was reading the book, I thought about the news story from a few years ago, in which authorities discovered a truck packed with dead people who had been brought from Mexico into the U.S. I can't find an article online, but I recall that migrant workers were locked into the cargo area of a truck without food or water and they died either from lack of air, heat, dehydration or a perhaps a combination.

More than likely, those folks were at some point excited at the prospect of entering the U.S. to earn some money and improve their lot in life. I looked up "migrant workers dead truck" on Google and was horrified to discover a large number of links to various articles on migrant workers who had died of suffocation, in automobile accidents, and sometimes after being abandoned while locked inside trucks. None of them covered the specific story I was looking for and the number of different countries represented was probably the most shocking thing about that search.

The second thing that really caught my interest was the information about the origins of chocolate and how all but one of the large companies selling chocolate have refused to adopt policies that would allow for fair trade and help eliminate slavery. I had no idea that boys are kidnapped or sold into slavery to do the heavy work required to produce chocolate. The only company that has agreed to use only 100% Fairtrade cocoa and sugar in its products (as of printing) is Royal Verkade, owned by United Biscuits. A campaign in the Netherlands successfully convinced Verkade, but did not sway Kinder (owned by Ferrero).

My husband brought some Kindereggs home from Portugal and now I see the sores on the backs of child slaves when I look in my refrigerator. I don't want to be a part of that. As much as I love chocolate, I've decided I will not buy it at all until I see Fair Trade labels on the packages I purchase. Ouch. That is not going to be easy. I love my chocolate. But, chocolate manufacturers have actually lobbied to keep from being legally bound to eliminate unfair practices and I would feel wrong supporting their choice to encourage the enslavement of children.

Stop the Traffik contains statistics, numerous links and personal stories from people who have been trapped, kidnapped or seduced by human traffickers. It's painful to read. Please take the time to visit the Stop the Traffik website and decide for yourself.

22 comments:

  1. Hi! Wanted to point you to a couple of links to help you find more fair trade chocolate. In Columbus, Ohio we have a company called Global Gallery, whose purpose for being is to bring fair trade and economic partnerships to impoverished communities around the world. They also carry two lines of Fair Trade chocolate, Art Bars and Divine Chocolate. Art Bars also help to support art education.

    The Divine Chocolate web home has a technical glitch right now, but I could get to this page to locate where to buy: http://www.divinechocolate.com/products/bars.aspx

    Art Bars are at this address: http://ithacafinechocolates.stores.yahoo.net/

    I've had both, and particularly love Art Bars. Delectable stuff, particularly the dark varieties.

    Thanks for bringing awareness of human trafficking to your blog. It's an ugly sight, but we cannot, for the sake of those affected, turn away and pretend it doesn't exist.

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  2. That is disturbing news about chocolate. It will be hard to enjoy it from now on.

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  3. Hi Anne,

    Thank you so much for the links! I will definitely look into those because the idea of giving up chocolate completely is so awful! Human trafficking is just not something I can ignore, now that I've read about it.

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  4. Kathy,

    Note Anne dropped by and left some links to places you can get Free Trade chocolate (thank goodness). Yeah, I can't imagine eating chocolate without that symbol, ever again.

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  5. Does that include candy like Snickers? I thought they were made in the US?

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  6. Thank you so much for this review! I really, really, really want to get my hands on this book.

    We're very lucky...we have a wonderful fair trade store here in town. And our grocery store has a nice fair trade section as well. But I've also ordered from www.serrv.org, an on-line fair trade non-profit organization that sells lots of products, including lots of Divine chocolate items. Yum.

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  7. I had seen a documentry on this shortly before the book was offered and it was an eye opener.

    I remember that news clip that you are talking about. Couldn't find it either.

    As for the chocolate I tend to buy only the free trade stuff. We have a Ten Thousand Village in the the area that sells only free trade items so I tend to get the chocolate there. Its too bad more of the chocolate companies wouldn't get involved in this.

    Great Review by the way. Mine is posted.

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  8. Jessica,

    I know. My sentiments exactly.

    Brittanie,

    Most of the cocoa used to make chocolate products comes from the Ivory Coast in Africa. I'm not sure where it's manufactured, but yes . . . it includes just about every chocolate you can buy. If you don't see the Fair Trade symbol, it probably contains cocoa harvested by slaves. Shocking, isn't it?

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  9. Debi,

    You're lucky. I'm guessing my best bet locally is the coop store in Jackson. I'll have to look, next time I'm there. I'm loving the fact that I'm getting links so I don't have to give up my chocolate completely (although it looks like I'll have to pay a surcharge if I mail-order, most of the year, because chocolate turns to soup without a cooling bag in our heat). Thank you! Serrv.org looks like a very cool site.

    Cindy,

    We don't have cable or satellite service (and, actually, I stopped watching TV years ago) so I don't see documentaries. I think I'd be afraid to watch one about human trafficking. Even the book conjured up some very vivid and terrifying imagery, didn't it?

    I'll have to check out your review. You're fortunate to have a good place to buy your Free Trade chocolate. I'm going to have to do some hunting.

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  10. Great subject matter! It is absolutely shocking to find out what is going on behind closed doors here in the US! I remember researching this subject for a paper once and being completely shocked that this goes on here. It does make it extremely hard to buy certain products, but I'm glad that the "fair trade" concept is starting to catch on. I would love to see it expand. For the moment, I do what I can to buy locally, but it is awfully hard these days!

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  11. Kim,

    "Shocking" is definitely the word that keeps coming to mind. I didn't know anything about Fair Trade until we visited a coffee plantation (they didn't quite qualify for the Fair Trade symbol) but now I want to learn more and I'm really glad I read this book. I hope it becomes more widely used and practiced, too. Buying locally can be difficult -- it really depends on where you live.

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  12. Anonymous4:33 AM

    I'd be very careful about the cocoa trafficking issue. Has Steve Chalke ever visited Ivory Coast? Many people who talk about this issue have never taken the time to come here and try to discover more.

    I've spent weeks travelling around cocoa farms and I didn't find one trafficked child. It does go on but since campaigning nearly ten years ago the numbers are very small (though of course serious). Many children do work on the cocoa farms (as they do work in every area of African society) but it's almost always with their parents, who care just as much as Westerners about the wellbeing of their children.

    It's really about poverty - if they got more money for their cocoa and there were schools in place, the children would be getting educated and heading for a different life.

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  13. wow - I had no idea. Hope you are feeling better. (and I received my poppet AND got one as a gift! VERY EXCITING.)

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  14. Anonymous,

    I don't know if Steve Chalke has personally visited the Ivory Coast, but there are numerous photos of young boys in tattered pants and one with sores on his back in the book.

    Your last comment is absolutely confirmed by the book.

    Care,

    I'm feeling better, thanks. My son is home sick today, though, poor kid. I know how he feels. You got two poppets!! Cool!

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  15. Anonymous12:06 PM

    I work for a company that makes some products that include chocolate and we have been looking into this issue. Having read various reports it is hard to get a handle on the level of any child traffiking in the ivory coast. There were some scary reports published in the late nineties but more recently I read a report that around 7% of children are not living with their immediate families. However this does not mean they were traffiked - civil war has been rife in the region as well as Aids and poverty could cause some families to send children to stay with relatives etc. I could not find any recent reliable research specifically on child traffiking.

    Interested to read comment from anonymous that it was not evident in the area he/she was in. While we use some fairtrade chocolate I am not convinced that this is the only answer - it would concentrate the wealth on those farms working with fairtrade co-operatives and leave less for the more remote farms. There are over 800,000 often remote small family run farms in the region. The main suppliers and big confectioners have been doing some work in the region to educate farmers on responsible practices and helping them increase their yields - which in turn increases their income. They have also been building schools and working with the regional government to ensure improvements are sustained.

    From what I have seen of Stop the Traffic they often refer to old research and have a very simplistic fairtrade only solution to all the problems. I think they would do better to engage with manufacturers, suppliers, governments and othe NGOs in this field to support a broader range of measures rather than just attacking everyone who is not fairtrade. It is a complex situation and needs more than one simple answer.

    What is worrying is that at least the ivory coast has the cocoa crop to provide some wealth for their farmers. There are many regions in Africa with no similar cash crop and subsistence farming and consequently even fewer organisations looking at their needs/abuses of humanity etc

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  16. A friend of mine has written several times on her blog about this same issue. Here are the links in case you want to check it out: here and here. The second talks about chocolate, the first about coffee.

    Hope you're feeling better soon!

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  17. Anonymous (#2),

    My review is very simplified because I've been sick with a stomach virus and I didn't elaborate about what Stop the Traffik claims to be doing to help the situation, although I will say that the book covers the full spectrum. It's not just about the two things I mentioned, by any means -- it's about human trafficking in general, which takes many forms. I think the book is deliberately geared to cover all angles without going too far in-depth, just to give the reader an idea of the vastness of the human trafficking problem.

    As to the statistics quoted on cocoa, I've found that collection of data often involves a significant lag -- usually at least a year or two. Hopefully, the situation has improved, but the most recent development noted in the book was the Royal Verkade agreement to source its sugar and cocoa from Fair Trade farms. They actually go into the pros and cons of Fair Trade products in the book; I'd encourage you to read it. Chalke does not say Fair Trade sourcing alone is a solution, but he does say it's a starting point. He also does mention war in the region. The bottom line is that solutions to poverty and desperation need to be addressed in order to make people less vulnerable to trafficking.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I am very new to this subject matter and don't claim to know a great deal!

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  18. Heather,

    Thank you! I'll check out your friend's posts. I'm feeling much better, thanks. My son stayed home with similar trouble, today, but I'm not entirely certain it wasn't just a sympathetic tummy ache (you never know) although the barfing bit sure sounded real. LOL

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  19. The comments here from people connected to the chocolate industry are very disappointing. It's rare for the industry to deny the problem these days. In the last few months Cadbury has announced, after campaigning from Stop the Traffik, that they will make their Dairy Milk bar fair trade in the UK. This is one of their leading brands, so Cadbury obviously don't agree that this is a "simplistic solution", and have recognized that there is a serious problem that needs to be addressed in precisely the way Stop the Traffik describes in the book. This month Mars announced that it would used certified cocoa (not fair trade, but certified by the Rain Forest Alliance as free from exploitation) in their Galaxy bars in the UK and their whole supply chain by 2020 - a long time, but it is an indication that they recognize the seriousness of the problem. So, it is strange to read these comments from industry people still in denial. So, buy fair trade - it really is having an effect and chocolate manufacturers are starting to listen to their customers!

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  20. Phil,

    Thanks for adding to the discussion. While I don't feel like I'm well educated in the issue, the one thing I know is that I can state my opinion with my dollars and I plan to do so. I will only buy chocolate that carries the Fair Trade symbol. I'm very happy to hear that there have been further improvements and that the chocolate industry is slowly taking steps to eliminate the horror of child slavery. I'll have to read up on the Rain Forest Alliance, also. Thanks for mentioning that!

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  21. Unfortunately, it is not just the cocoa workers that are being exploited like this. This is happening in plantations in Thailand and Uganda and Venezuela and more places with different stories. It is up to those of us to educate ourselves about these humanitarian issues, and not only that, but do something about them. I like that you are taking steps towards that goal by purchasing only Fair Trade chocolate. It can be more expensive, but the payoff is worth it.

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