The Problematic Production of Chocolate

The unfortunate covid-19 pandemic had forced students, including me, to shift to online learning. In the past months, I have been exploring new topics, researching interesting information and enhancing my knowledge of the world in different themes. One of the themes I have explored is “Production”, which I wrote about the process of making products and researched about various issues in this topic. Chocolate production happened to spark my interest because of its unheard stories and data that are really staggering. 

What Chocolate Companies are doing to fight slavery
Credits to Susannah Henty from Fair trade Blog

Chocolate is a product we enjoy made by the sacrifice of non-fair trade victims which they pour their blood, sweat, and tears to make. Among all of the products that we buy at the end of the supply chain, chocolate is one of the most exploitative of all.  Unlike the delicious final product, the stories behind chocolate production isn’t that sweet and beautiful. While we enjoy eating this amazing snack, the farmers who grow them mostly earn less than 2 dollars a day, which is below the poverty line set by the world bank. Most of us are indirectly supporting slavery, child labor, and forced labor by unknowingly and unconsciously buying products from companies who practice non-fair trade deals to exploit uneducated and unempowered farmers in poor communities.  While there are people who surely have concerns about this tribulation, ignorance from many is inevitable. However, I believe the research and stories behind your delicious chocolate might help you see the injustice behind food production and encourage you to buy more consciously. 


Child Labor and Slavery in the Chocolate Industry

Bitter Sweets | Fortune
Credits to Brian O’keefe, Bitter Sweets from Fortune. PHOTOGRAPHS BY BENJAMIN LOWY

Due to low payment farmers get from unfair-trade companies, child labor, and slavery is a solution for them as it provides low-cost labor. While some children work in this industry because they need to find income for their families which are in poverty, others are tricked by traffickers or sold to them by families in need. Those children are between the ages of 12 and 16. Given the lack of education and the need to find income, these children often continue working in the cocoa farms throughout adulthood, and this cycle of unfair payment and slavery continues. The heavy labor, dangerous tools, unfair treatment and the overall hazardous environment the cocoa industry expose these children to often violate the international labor laws. Similar to child labor, slavery in the chocolate industry is brutal, involving physical violence,  mental abuse, and other immoral treatments. 

Other Obstacles Cocoa Farmers Face

The chocolate and cocoa industry is huge but farmers face a lot of problems in producing them. One of the many challenges farmers face is climate change and pollution, which causes changing weather patterns, soil composition, an increase in water limitation, and more.  According to a research paper written by the  Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering at Michigan State University, Climate change is projected to overall decrease the yields of cereal crop in Africa through shortening growing season length, amplifying water stress and increasing incidence of diseases, pests and weeds outbreaks (Niang et al. 2014). Furthermore,  they need to face diseases and blights which lead to plummeting sales for the cooperation they work for. In Daniel Stolte’s article, “Cocoa, Currency and a Chocolate Crisis, from the Arizona University, ” About 70 percent of the world’s production of cocoa — chocolate’s main ingredient — comes from just six small countries of West Africa, where a blight disease that kills cacao trees is spreading rapidly, causing decline and death in some trees in less than one year after infection occurs. 

Credits to: Arizona University

”On top of that, nearly all of the corporations they sell to are non-fair trade companies that take advantage of their labor and do not pay them fairly for their hardly grown products. 

The reason why most cocoa farmers are treated this way is because of the poverty they are in which drives them to do anything to find an income — whether non-fair trade or not. Due to the lack of support of fair-trade and empowerment, most of the companies they sell to are non-fair, making it extremely hard to make a decent living. To illustrate, let’s look at a shocking statistic that will open your eyes to the world of chocolate production. According to a Fairtrade Foundation video titled “The Story of Chocolate: Unwrapping the Bar”,  “Of the 2 million tons of cocoa produced in Cote D’Ivoire in 2016, only 8% of them are produced on fair trade. ”

Financial need is one of the most basic human needs; and if stifled, would cause an array of problems in the livelihoods of many. The non-fair trade low payment further leads to extremely concerning problems including lack of education for the children, lack of decent health care, clean water, and sanitation, and other essential infrastructures. This ultimately drives the whole community into stunting the whole development of the area. 

Organization Actions to Help 

Fairtrade logo            

To help alleviate their poverty, the fair trade foundation is working hard to help the farmers in South Africa. They help train the farmers so their products can increase and teach them the basic principles of fair trades including the minimum wage of fair trades which acts as a safety net when the market prices go down. Their vision is to see a world in which all producers can enjoy secure and sustainable livelihoods, fulfill their potential, and decide on their future. Not only working with the farmer, but they also work with the government to make the laws fairer. Furthermore, they work hard to spread the awareness of non-fair trade deals to the public so the consumers can make wiser choices when shopping to support the farmers. 

Supporting fair trade doesn’t only help to pay the farmers fairly, but it also helps to enhance environmental sustainability by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving the quality of the soil and water by introducing sustainable agriculture. 

The truth is, the lack of transparency in the chocolate industry makes it hard for consumers to consciously choose from fair trade deals. However, consumers can still take action to help contribute to solving this immense problem. They can seek products that are certified by fairtrade organizations like Fairtrade foundation for example. (For your information, here is the list of fair trade chocolate companies recommended by Fairtrade foundation. ) 

Buying from fair-trade companies doesn’t require any difficulties. By encouraging fair trade, you help workers to have a fair payment while lowering your environmental impacts. So the next time you eat chocolate, make sure you eat those that are produced with love instead of suffering. Help make the chocolate industry sweet and happy again. 




What the Classic Novel “Animal Farm” teaches humanity about UTOPIA

Have you ever dreamt of a perfect world without hunger, pain, inequalities, poverty, diseases, pollution, and all of the other critical problems? 

If yes, you are not alone. I always have been dreaming about that so-called “Utopia” where the greatest dreams of humanity are achieved. However, that perfect world turns out to be an evil illusion that lures revolutionaries and great political leaders to establish a society that enslaves their very own citizens in the set of beliefs and ideologies that they believe would create the ultimate perfect society. 

This is the reason why many people believe that Utopia is an ideal that is an inherent/ a natural contradiction. 

Every reward comes with a price. If you want to create that perfect world, what are you willing to sacrifice? And when you put the Utopia and its cost on a scale, which one is heavier? Then, would you still think Utopia is the best world possible? 

In Animal Farm, the classic political allegory written by the famous British author, George Orwell, this idea of political Utopia is being deliberated through a simple satire of an animal group. By using symbolism, George Orwell shows the thought-provoking consequences of political revolutions and totalitarianism.   

Animal Farm” & the Evolution of the Dust Jacket — Studiolo secondari

Animal Farm mainly represents the history of the Russian Revolution, but it also serves as a reminder of human nature’s tyranny and hypocrisy. Through his stories, Orwell condemned how revolutionaries usually turn out to be inferior to those they overthrew and turn out to be hypocrites who practice the very ideologies the revolutions oppose in the first place. 

Given its genre as a political allegory, a strong/an influential use of symbolism can be seen throughout this novel. 

Character Symbolism: 

First of all, the characters symbolize the leaders of the Russian Revolution including Joseph Stalin (represented by Napoleon), Leon Trotsky (represented by Snowball) and  the visionaries who inspire the ideologies of communism which promise to bring equality and justice to the people, Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin (represented by Old Major), and the working people of Russia (represented by other animals on the farm). 

Plot Symbolism: 

Many of the plots also represent the events that took place in the real revolution. For example, in Chapter 4, how the other neighboring farms, which are known to symbolize the European countries, are frightened of the Revolution of the Animal Farm. This is known to be the “Red Terror” that took place soon after the Russian Revolution. Other plots include the expulsion of Snowball, which resembles the Assassination of Leon Trotsky by Joseph Stalin, represented by Napoleon, in a ruthless machination to seize power. 

Other General Symbolism: 

All are equal, but some are more equal then others.

The revolution wanted to abolish any form of inequality and sought to modernize its society with a unifying force of the population. However, these symbols in the story criticize this very core ideology of most revolutionists. 

Take the windmill for example; its literal purpose is to bring a more modern power source that will modernize the farm. It promises a better life, with hot water, endless electricity, fewer work hours and more benefits to the animals.

red and gray windmill on green grass field during daytime
Photo by Kai Dahms on Unsplash

However, if we look into its symbolism, the windmill represents an impossible dream of utopia which is impossible to achieve and comes with a greater cost than the ultimate result. As the animals work so hard like slaves and their lives are getting more painful to build the windmill, it has repeatedly fallen, just like their dreams of a better world. Not only has it fallen, but eventually workers, like Boxer, who are too blind to see their sacrifices for such an impossible dream lost their lives working too hard. 

Morals of the Story: 

This tragic story of Animal Farm tells the dystopian history of many revolutions we have seen. It should guide us away from those dark paths we have chosen in the past and walk more towards what will take us to a compromised greater good of society. 

Beware of the choices you make, and educate yourself of the facts to avoid falling into traps. As seen in the story, the people who are most vulnerable to manipulation are those who are uneducated and forget their very own history. Distinguish what are facts and what is propaganda. 

Most important of all, humanity must value individuality, identity and encourage the freedom of speech from everyone. We must speak and listen. No one should be suppressed of their thoughts and no one should have their fundamental human rights taken away. 

If we want a utopia, it is only possible if we define that world by ourselves and if we value other people’s definitions as well. 

Resource: Somers, Jeffrey. “‘Animal Farm’ Overview.” ThoughtCo, Feb. 11, 2020,

First MUN Conference | Giving Youth a Voice

In the opening ceremony of the Model United Nations Conference 2019, the secretary general speaks: “Model United Nations 2019’s theme is Giving Youth a Voice. But how do we can we give a platform for the youth to speak, if they aren’t willing to share their voice?” Those two sentences were the part that spoke to me the most throughout this year’s conference. 

As a first time delegate, I have to admit I was a little bit too audacious to sign up for the General Assembly 3 (GA3) when I could have signed up for the junior committee instead; but this risk I made actually made my first MUN experience more challenging and empowering. 

One of the reasons I signed up for GA3 committee is because of its theme that focuses on the 10th SDG goal which is Reduced Inequalities. I wanted to use my voice as the delegate of the Kingdom of France and also as a youth in the society, to contribute to the resolutions that aim to provide equality, justice, freedom and rights to all people. I tried my best to prepare in advance for this first conference. I spent hours on the computer reading articles, looking at data and any research I can find relating to the three topics of GA3 committee which are: “The question of reducing inequality towards the LGBTQ+ community.”, “The question of representation of youths in government.” and “The question of government censorship of social media”. The two resolutions that I chose to work on are on the question of reducing inequality towards the LGBTQ+ community and the question of representation of youths in government. I was able to speak in favor of the two topics I chose in my resolutions according to the positive support provided by my delegation nation, France. The structure of MUN that requires every delegate to speak from their nation’s viewpoint, and not their personal opinions, provides more challenges but also a powerful voice to delegates. It has given me the power to challenge delegates from nations with opposing point of views, to question their beliefs, but most importantly to compromise. 

The Liger Leadership Academy MUN participants in 2019

On the overall aspect, my first MUN conference was challenging but successful. It had given me memories, hope and strength. It tells me that I have the ability to voice my stance, to challenge and listen to different aspects in the world. Most importantly, it has given me a chance to work with new people towards the same goal which is creating a better world. 

But if there’s one thing I take away the most from this, it is that gathering truthful voices from people is not easy, and we need to really think about how society can better listen to their people. Back to the beginning, I mentioned the secretary general’s speech that has spoken to me the most because it represents the unfortunate truth we live in. Even in the conference, I saw delegates who were scared to speak, scared to ask questions or afraid to just raise their nation placards to express their stances and needs. Why are we afraid to speak? Is it merely the stage fright? Is it the fear resulting from indirect suppression from the society or governments? Is it the result caused by communism oppression that tends to silence rebellious reforms? Or is it because of societal discrimination, prejudice or stereotypes that we constantly battle?

Whatever reason it is, I believe we all need to hear and listen to the voices of the people that we live among, no matter who we are. I believe no real change can be made if those statements of the people themselves are not being heard. I believe there’s no way government actions can work if the people whom those laws apply to aren’t parts of the decisions. 

We need to fully and truthfully encourage, listen to each other, act upon the fully compromised opinions and ultimately creating a better world for all of us. 

Lessons in Math Class

Math is an essential part of our lives, no matter who you are. In Liger Leadership Academy, we take the math curriculum from Singapore to study. Mostly, we dive deeper into a certain topic each week or round. Problem-solving and teamwork is the two most important part of our Math class. I like the way we practice our maths in different ways including solving word problems and exercises in our workbooks, doing fun math games and activities, decoding riddles with math, etc. I have access to a wonderful math learning source online which is called Khan Academy which is introduced by our math teacher.

In these last several weeks, we have been reviewing about adding, subtracting and multiplication of fractions and mixed numbers. We did a lot of exercises both in the workbook and textbook to help us practice the lessons that we have learned. Algebra is also a new lesson that has been introduced several weeks ago. It is a new and efficient way to solve math problems that I have never learned about before. I am looking forward to learning new lessons in math class. 

Studying Etymology

In this first term of my third year at Liger, we are focusing on Root Words and Etymology in the literacy class. We have been learning different root words that originated from Greek and Latin. Those root words include bio, photo, Phil, sci, phon, aud, aqua, etc. This is a splendid opportunity for me to learn more about the literacy of English and it helps me more with my vocabulary skills. We have been reading articles and we had our first official peer discussion about the articles that we have read.
I read about a deaf couple who own an extremely successful business in spite of their disability and discrimination. The morals of this article are that even we are disabled or different from others, it doesn’t mean that you can’t pursue your dreams. Many disabled people gave up their dreams because of discrimination and difficulties. However, the article is an inspiration and I would highly encourage other people to do the same as the deaf-couple which overcame their great difficulties.

The inspiring article I read: