I think we all know that the #blacklivesmatter movement must extend beyond the USA. We are not outside, but inside this paradigm of white power, privilege, poverty and abuse, it may be less overt here in Ireland but our direct provision centres show how much work there is to be done. And of course #Blacklivesmatter in West Africa too where there are currently over 30,000 slaves and two million children working on cocoa farms; where extreme poverty in farming communities is the norm. Commodity farmers the world over are living proof that black lives still do not matter enough, in fact they do not seem to matter more than industry profit, fat pay cheques for executives and buying cheap goods at the grocery store.
If we truly agree that Black lives do matter, we have to start at home and though Ireland has made good progress in recent years there are still miles to go. The chocolate industry in Ireland is worth 61 million and less than 25 per cent of that is Fairtrade or ethically sourced. It’s the big chocolate brands that do not have any certification on their labels that are the main perpetrators of this injustice – and we become complicit every time we purchase. Last month Nestlé announced that after a decade of working with Fairtrade they would now stop. No more Fairtrade sugar or cocoa for their bars, resulting in a two million annual loss to farmers in the poorest regions of the world, and this at a time when they are already in the midst of massive struggle with the pandemic and climate change challenges. Nestlé may still buy from the same cooperatives but will no longer pay the Fairtrade premium. Please reach out to Nestlé and spread this terrible news.
In West Africa, where 70 per cent of the world’s cocoa is now grown as a result of European colonisation, non-fairtrade farmers live in abject poverty, on less than €1 a day. No running water, no sanitation, no access to healthcare. Only seven per cent of West African cocoa is sold on Fairtrade terms and the news is even worse for bananas. The gold mining industry there is a disgrace to humanity with miners extracting gold using toxic chemicals such as mercury and cyanide. The use of these chemicals can cause birth defects, brain and kidney damage, and can contaminate water supplies, entering the food chain through poisoned fish.
Although no certification system is absolutely perfect, Fairtrade guarantees autonomy, a minimum price, a community premium, safety training and transparency. It is an independent system, free from corporate control. By aiming to work with the biggest companies they aspire to make the biggest change. Visit fairtrade.ie where you can read the Fairtrade cocoa report to dig deeper.
Please shop responsibly and demand more from your favourite shops. We may not get it perfect, but we can surely try our best, and if we work together we can shift this mountain of injustice.
By Allison Roberts, Clonakilty Fairtrade