I had a chance to experience the difference we can all make when I visited fair-trade cocoa farmers in rural Ghana with Cadbury Canada. Here's how you can improve the lives of people thousands of miles away by purchasing fair-trade products like chocolate.
What is fair trade?
Chocolate is a treat we all enjoy. But did you know that 90 per cent of the world's cocoa (a key ingredient in chocolate) comes from small producers in third-world countries such as Ghana?
Most farmers in Ghana live very close to the poverty line and the term "fair trade" ensures that farmers in Ghana, and other developing countries, receive a reliable and living wage for their work. They also get a social premium to invest back into their communities for much-needed projects, such as building schools and roads. The best part about this extra money is that organized groups of farmers (co-operatives) decide how the premiums can best be best put to use, giving them the ability to make a real difference in their communities.
When chocolate bears the Official Fair Trade Certified logo, it means the cocoa production has been independently monitored, giving you the assurance the manufacturer's claim is true, said Michael Zelmer, director of communications with TransFair Canada, the organization that certifies fair trade products in Canada.
Fair trade also encourages sustainable farming, so when purchasing a fair-trade products you're also helping the environment.
How else can fair trade help?
Fair trade has a huge impact on individual farmers (many of whom are women) and their families. I spoke to one fair-trade cocoa farmer in rural Ghana who told me he has four children who are "all well educated because of the money I get from fair trade."
Describing the impact of fair trade, Mary Mabel Addy of the Kuapa Kokoo Farmers group in Ghana said: "They [fair-trade cocoa farmers] have more confidence and courage and are moving ahead."
Page 1 of 2 - Discover how to find fair trade chocolate on Page 2
The cocoa farmers in the fair-trade co-op in Ghana receive a US$150 social premium for each metric tone of cocoa they sell. This has financed projects that have benefited the community, one example being a well. Before the well was built, Mary Mabel said people in her community had to walk three miles just to get water.
The fair-trade premium has also allowed the community to purchase a mill that is being used to process oil from palm nuts – another source of much-needed income.
"The premium that we have already received from Cadbury has made a real difference to our lives," said P.K. Tekper, the vice-president of Kuapa Kokoo co-op, from which Cadbury Canada is sourcing its Fair Trade cocoa. "Our plans for the future are to build 14 community projects and invest in the health care of our farmers."
How easy is it to buy Fair Trade chocolate?
Ask the stores you frequent if they sell Fair Trade chocolate. The Fair Trade chocolate market is growing in Canada and experts expect that it will take on the same life of Fair Trade coffee, which is now widely available and no longer considered just a high-end product.
Cadbury Canada is playing a huge role in expanding the Fair Trade chocolate market with its announcement that all products sold in Canada from its Dairy Milk line will have the Official Fair Trade Certified logo of summer 2010, doubling the amount of Fair Trade certified chocolate sold in Canada. It will also improve the lives and communities of over 40,000 cocoa farmers and 6,000 sugar farmers, says Rob Clarke, executive director of TransFair Canada.
"It makes Fair Trade chocolate much more accessible to consumers because you can purchase Dairy Milk bars in vending machines and stores across the country, and at the same price as another candy bar," said Zelmer. "It also puts a challenge out to other companies."
Organic chocolate maker, Green & Black's, which is owned by Cadbury, is also going fair trade, giving consumers even more options to buy Fair Trade chocolate products.
You can also play a part in expanding the fair-trade movement. "Contact companies, send a message to them that you want their products to be fair trade," said Zelmer. "These sorts of things can have a huge impact."
Are you coo coo for cocoa? Here's a collection of Canadian Living's most popular chocolate recipes for you to try. Don't forget to use Fair Trade chocolate!
Page 2 of 2