Stop Letting Children Die for Smoothies

Target: President Jair Bolsonaro

Goal: Protect child acaí workers from abusive and exploitative working conditions.

Açaí smoothies: filled with antioxidants and supposed health benefits, they’re the star of the health world show. But what’s healthy for consumers is hell for children in Brazilian families. Picking açaí is an exploitative, sometimes murderous, journey for underpaid families in the Amazon, one that’s largely performed by children as young as 9 years old.

The vast majority of the world’s açaí comes from Brazil, where over 120,000 families work the forest harvests just to survive. But açaí trees are unwieldy creatures: the fruit sits at the top of long, wiry trees that are far too thin and fragile for most adults to climb. When bearing the weight of people larger than a child, the tree trunks have been known to snap in half, crushing whoever is at the top against the ground. Even if they survive, the individuals are often at least partially paralyzed for life.

Parents don’t want to send their children up into the trees. In fact, they often fear for their children’s lives. But living on subsistence earnings, they likely have no choice. And so small children, often younger than 12, wrap their feet in cloth, attach knives around their waists, and climb story after story into the air, up to 80 ft till they reach the fruit.

Researchers have found that countless youths have fallen from the trees. Some recover after hospitalization, and some die. Some children simply went out into the woods to harvest and never returned again.

There are other dangers in addition to the dangerous work of scaling 70-foot-tall, thin, breakable trees; the children also have to deal with scorpions, snakes, biting spiders, impalation from branches and bows, and poisonous bees. That’s why açaí-harvesting is considered one of the most dangerous jobs in Brazil.

Açaí is known as “black gold” in Brazil. Selling for upwards of $15 per bowl in the U.S, families are paid less than $3 per bucket. An entire family could spend a whole day up in the trees only to earn less than $40 for the day.

Some companies maintain they only deliver “fair trade” açaí, but experts say such a claim is impossible; that no such thing as fair trade açaí exists. The supply chain is spread out too much to track each individual berry. This is partly because Brazilian law does not provide any labor protections that ensure a livable wage for harvesters. Children who are up in the trees often fly under the radar of any federal oversight and are taken advantage of by greedy middlemen who underpay the families and squeeze them for more.

No health food trend should be putting children in harm’s way. It is important to create government regulations to protect açaí pickers. Sign the petition now!

PETITION LETTER:

Dear President Bolsonaro,

While Acaí harvesting is a profitable enterprise, especially in Brazil, it is also ethically corrupt. It is estimated that 120,000 families are engaged in the forest harvests just to survive, and children between 9 and 12 are sent up to 80 ft in the air on the wiry acaí trunks that have a tendency to snap in half. Countless youths fall from the trees and are at the least hospitalized…but many die.

Falling is not the only danger–children are exposed to snakes, scorpions, poisonous bees, and biting spiders on their way towards the clouds, and there are currently no regulations to protect them. It is important that laws are put into place to make sure that they are safe, and that they are paid a living wage. Often times families that spend all day in the trees will make less than 40 dollars. This is all for work that has been called “the most dangerous job in Brazil.”

Please, ensure that there are protections put in place for these children, and make sure that their families earn a living wage.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Ella Olsson


3 Comments

  1. Evan Jane Kriss says:

    STOP CHILD LABOR!

    STOP DESTROYING THE AMAZON RAINFOREST!

  2. Stop doing this to children now! 🙁 😞 😓 😩 😤 😡

  3. I will never buy this again.

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