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Easter gifts to die for

Fuzz Kitto gets ready to share some Fairtrade chocolate. Photo by Osker Lau

EASTER is around the corner and with Easter eggs already in the shops the Stop the Traffik coalition is working hard to help people realise the true cost of these delectable treats.

The reality of chocolate is far from romantic.

Around 70 per cent of the world's production of cocoa comes from West Africa — Ghana, Nigeria, Côte d'Ivoire and Cameroon.

Most of the chocolate sold in Australia will contain cocoa from West Africa, produced by children forced to work in slave-like conditions or who have been trafficked.

The US Department of State estimates that more than 109 000 children in Cote d'Ivoire's cocoa industry work under "the worst forms of child labor" [sic], and that some 10 000 are victims of human trafficking or enslavement.

For Christian leaders Carolyn and Fuzz Kitto a much better expression of Easter is to work together to combat modern slavery.

When they heard the international coalition Stop the Traffik was looking for someone to take the lead in Australia, Ms
Kitto, who had been involved with World Vision Australia's Don't Trade Lives campaign, immediately put her hand up.

"This is such a no-brainer," she said.

"I'm not saying this is a simple issue, because there are lots of complexities, but it is as simple as a six-year-old deciding
not to eat a Freddo Frog."

Mr Kitto said the Stop the Traffik campaign uses many of the strategies pioneered by William Wilberforce and the
activists who worked to abolish the British slave trade 200 years ago.

The abolitionists asked ordinary people to stop using sugar, which was imported from the slave plantations. In doing so they changed a culture that, until then, had seen slavery as necessary.

"In all the years in the justice movement, the big breakthroughs happen when we've been able to get people involved in action," he said.

While human trafficking is not just about chocolate, it's a good place to start.

And although Stop the Traffik is lobbying the Federal Government to make it an offence to knowingly import goods produced using trafficked labour, their primary focus is on getting individuals to reassess their own choices.

Mr Kitto brings it back to Christian principles.

"What are the economics of the kingdom of God?"

"There is that wonderful verse that we've sung all about and used, about seek first the kingdom of God and his justice, and all this will be given to you.

"Jesus is saying, don't worry about tomorrow and its problems; don't worry about what you're going to drink and eat, and what clothes you're going to wear, but seek first the kingdom of God and these things will be given to you.

"You unpack that, what he's saying is, when we live under the economics of the kingdom of God there's enough to go around, there's enough to share and people will have what is adequate."

The world's biggest chocolate companies have been in conversations with Stop the Traffik since 2001 and don't deny that slave labour is used to produce their chocolate.

Most have made the token gesture of moving one of their products into line with ethical standards — in the case of Mars, their Mars Bar, for Cadbury it is the plain Dairy Milk bars — and say they are committed to change, but progress is painfully slow.

One of the arguments is that there is not enough ethically produced chocolate to meet the world's cravings.

But Ms Kitto said that's a cop-out.

"It's not that hard and it's not that expensive to make the change."

Some people are concerned that by boycotting certain products, they are taking away someone's livelihood.

"That is a big issue," she said.

"I've worked in international development for a long time, so I know that some families would rather put up with those conditions to be able to eat.

But what you're talking about in the chocolate industry is children being kidnapped.

"There's not any money going back to their communities."

Your actions this Easter will make a difference and help share the love of Christ.

Buy chocolate that has been independently certified as Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance or UTZ to ensure you are supporting fair wages for cocoa plantation workers and farmers.

Ask your favourite chocolate company to ensure their cocoa is free from trafficking and child labour.

For more information or to download the Stop the Traffik Good Chocolate Guide visit http://stopthetraffik.org.au

Photo : Fuzz Kitto gets ready to share some Fairtrade chocolate. Photo by Osker Lau