Chocolate – Worth its weight in Gold

This may be the most concerning news I have heard for a long time

Fancy a bit of chocolate? An afternoon Kit Kat with your cup of tea? A chunk of fruit and nut? Go on, you’ve earned it.  Except that in the future, chocoholics might have to work quite a bit harder to pay for their fix. The world could run out of affordable chocolate within 20 years as farmers abandon their crops in the global cocoa basket of West Africa, industry experts claim…. Read the entire article

My first reaction is to be amused by the news but then I start to think – what does it mean?  Part of what it means is that those who grow our chocolate don’t get paid enough to make it worthwhile.

Most of our chocolate comes from the Ivory Coast region of West Africa, where cocoa production is an enormous part of the economy. In Ghana, 40 percent of the country’s export revenues come from the sale of cocoa. Unfortunately, very little of the profit goes to the farmers who grow the cocoa beans. Cocoa farmers receive about a penny for a candy bar selling for 60 cents.

In fact, the difficulty in making a living at cocoa farming has spawned an increase in child and even slave labor drawn from poor neighboring countries such as Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin and Togo. Children and other workers are forced to work long days picking and processing cocoa beans (it takes 400 of these pods to make just one pound of chocolate). Very few of the children have the opportunity to attend school.

This is quite an issue in Europe where many countries have gone entirely fair trade chocolate.  But here in the U.S there is only one company – Theo chocolates that is fair trade bean-to-bar.  Of course there are many other fair trade chocolates available – like Divine chocolate which in my opinion really does live up to its name.  The New American Dream website has a great list of fair trade chocolate brands. – which suggests to me that fair traded chocolate should really be part of the new American dream.

So as you make your Christmas lists and reach for those stocking filling chocolates this year, remember those who produce it – at the least say a prayer, and if possible make sure that the chocolate you buy is fair trade certified.



Is Your Cell Phone Drenched in Blood

this morning I received an email from one of my favourite environmental organizations suggesting that I change my cell phone company away from the big multi national corporations to one that they approve of.  What does this have to do with my previous post on Who Is Jesus, you may wonder?  Well the email really bugged me because I know that elements of most of our cell phones are produced by slave labour and very destructive mining methods issues that as Christians we should be concerned about.

Cell phones were once a luxury, something that people thought were sort of frivolous. But in today’s age of ever-advancing technology, we’ve come to consider them an absolute necessity. Now practically everyone owns one – and we replace them with new ones every 1-2 years. But at what cost? It turns out that a vital raw material used in many cell phones is often mined illegally, and by slave labor.  read the entire article

I know it is easy for us to get overwhelmed by the extent to which our world is corrupted by greed, injustice and atrocities.  Slave labour is not confined to the making of clothing and the production of food.  The mining of gold and gemstones is very dependent on slave labour as many became aware through the film Blood Diamond.  But cell phones – that cuts a little too close to home.  They have become the air we breathe and the lifeline we depend on for many of our culture.

Ironically in the very countries that mine coltan essential to cell phone production numbers of entrepreneurial small businesses have arisen in which people provide cell phone access to their neighbours as this article Upwardly Mobile in Africa suggests.

I still have a cell phone, but I think that this is another issue that we all need to be aware of and if possible do something about.

Time to Turn, a Netherlands based Christian advocacy group did just that in 2008.

We asked people to write a postcard with a personal message to the cellphone industry. We collected those cards and offered them – as a text message bundle – to representatives of the phone & electronics industry, that met in Washington on November 19th, 2008.   Read more

What do you think?

Don’t Trade Lives

Tom and I have just returned from a very challenging breakfast talk by David Batsone who is in Australia to promote his book Not For Sale. Seems strange that we travel half way around the world to be challenged by someone who lives in San Francisco. His book is about modern day slavery and the need for us to as Christians to redeem the lives of people who have been sold in this way. I think what shook me the most was his stories of church pastors in the US and elsewhere who buy slaves to work for them.

Tim Costello, CEO of World Vision Australia began the morning by showing a very compelling video shot on a recent trip to Africa called the Gate of No Return. World Vision Australia is very active in advocacy against slavery. Their current focus is the production of cocoa which is mainly produced by kids in slavery.

I was particularly challenged by the call for us to be redemption people – not just bringing the message of Christ to a small spiritual compartment of life but truly reaching out to bring redemption to those that are bound physically or spiritually.

Invisible children

For those that are in Seattle, here is something you might like to check out.

Quest Church and Q Cafe is privileged to partner together to host a screening of the new film, ”Black is for Sunday,” from the non-profit international organization, Invisible Children.  Film will be shown on Monday, March 31 – 7-9pm at Q Cafe with some brief discussion afterwards.  Read more