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Child Slavery in our Chocolate

 

57010619_Roasted_Cocoa_Beans_And_Pods.jpgChocolate. The word itself is tantalizing and makes our mouths water. It is an ingredient that we not only use in a plethora of foods, but is also simply an enjoyable snack. Unfortunately, the origins of our chocolate are, more often than not, much more bitter than we would expect. Major chocolate corporations, primarily Nestle, Hershey’s, and Mars, purchase the cocoa they use in their chocolate from plantations in West Africa that use child slave labor. This way, these corporations are able to buy the cocoa cheaply and maximize their profits. This problem was brought to the chocolate companies’ attention in 2001, however, almost nothing has been done to fix it.
 
Children are trafficked from various countries in West Africa, such as Mali and Ghana, and forced to work on cocoa plantations in West Africa, mainly the Ivory Coast. These children, many of which are younger than 12, are treated inhumanly. They are often beaten during the day and then locked up at night to prevent escape. Brian Woods and Kate Blewett are two filmmakers who created a documentary about this issue. They interviewed a child named Drissa, who had been a slave on one of the plantations. Woods claimed, “There wasn’t an inch of his body which wasn’t scarred.” But physical scars aren’t the only type acquired while the children are enslaved. Free the Slaves, an organization dedicated to ending slavery worldwide, published a report on the mental health of children from the Ivory Coast, some of whom were recovered from the cocoa industry. The effects observed included perturbation, depression, and aggressiveness.
 
The companies themselves are doing very little to stop child slavery; there is no enforcement used on the plantation owners to prevent this practice. As long as these companies continue to benefit from having child slavery in their supply chain, there is no business motive for change. Some people, however, have chosen to boycott the companies, opting to purchase Fair Trade Certified chocolate instead. By purchasing Fair Trade chocolate, consumers can insure that they are not financing the continuation of child slavery. If we stop supporting these corporations, they will change their unethical practices.
 
Fair trade chocolate providers include: Equal Exchange, Divine Cocoa, Dagoba, Coco-zen, Green and Blacks, and Newman's Own Organics. More companies can be found here (http://fairtradeusa.org/products-partners/cocoa).
 
Fair Trade chocolate is sold at Whole Foods, Trader Joes, Ten Thousand Villages, and some can be bought online (http://shop.equalexchange.com/category.aspx?categoryID=21 and http://shop.equalexchange.com/category.aspx?categoryID=21).
 
Sources:
"BBC News | AFRICA | Mali's Children in Chocolate Slavery." BBC News - Home. 12 Apr. 2001. Web. 29 Oct. 2011. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/1272522.stm>.
 
The Dark Side of Chocolate: Child Trafficking and Illegal Child Labor in the Cocoa Industry. Dir. Roberto U. Romano and Miki Mistrati. Danish Broadcasting Corporation, 2010. DVD.
 
Hyde, Judith, Kevin Bales, and Marc Levin. "Physical And Mental Health Aspects Of Rehabilitating Children Freed From Slavery." Free The Slaves. 2006. Web. 29 Oct. 2011. <http://www.freetheslaves.net/Document.Doc?id=36>.
 
Korfhage, Andrew. "Big Chocolate's Child Slavery Addiction | Common Dreams." Home | Common Dreams. 22 Oct. 2010. Web. 29 Oct. 2011. <http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/10/22-1>.
 
Robbins, John. "Is There Slavery In Your Chocolate?" John Robbins Official Site. 19 Apr. 2010. Web. 29 Oct. 2011. <http://www.johnrobbins.info/blog/is-there-slavery-in-your-chocolate/>.
 

Comments (8)

Documentary film is notoriously biased source to reference for information on the issue. What I've seen on the issue of fair trade chocolate is that there is no currently feasible way to monitor the production and beans to know what's really happening in their production and shipment. The tag and agreement is mostly a feel good effort with no measurable effect.
I agree it is difficult from the piece to quantify what is really occurring. It would be fantastic to hear from some of the companies like Green & Blacks on the realities of this and how they take a stand against it. I do think it is a best practice to purchase fair trade coffee and chocolate. It gives smaller farmers a chance.
@phatch Fair Trade companies do monitor cocoa farms closely to ensure that children aren't used in the labor. They purchase cocoa from small farms instead of larger plantations to help with this issue since small farms are easier to monitor.
The article could be more accurate and clearer.
1. fairchocolate: Do you want all countries to stop "child labour"? Problem: In much of agrarian West Africa, children are used as labour not because Africans "need to be educated".Do you want family farms to be banned? I
2. The author equates child labour with torture, entrapment, and slavery. While the "Labour Migration Patterns.." link on the FreetheSlaves article states that there are four ways in with children work on farms. Only one is through agents, How wide spread agents is not mentioned.
3. Bad tone: The referenced articles focus too much on poverty, how large chocolate companies are, lobbying efforts, and condescendingly saying the "poor people" in West Africa "eat roots and snails". The whole thing seems insulting. Roots can be cassava which is a popular food and not restricted to any economic class, likewise with snails.
4. Nicko: Organic Cocoa can't be grown in West Africa according to Craig Sams.
6. fairchocolate" The small vs large cocoa farms comparison is not very beneficial because you are assuming one system will work for all countries. In Mexico and Central America few elite families own large tracts of land due to colonialism, immigration, etc.
7. fairchocolate: You say that the farms should be large so confidently, when in almost every single one model country there has been civil war over agrarian reform to breakup the large farm system. (Zapatistas, Zapata, Jacobo Arbenz, etc).
The reply sounds like "I am glossing over the strife and lost lives the large agrarian system has caused, because it would be easier to monitor "fairtrade" chocolate exported the the U.S."
8. The enthusiastic censor should be curbed a bit. On Milwaukee chocolate maker's Omanhene's website. One activist posted a crude message on their forum saying that Omanhene's chocolate in made by child slaves, despite there being a document on Omanhene's website referencing committees stating how, where, and by whom their cocoa was produced.
9. Conclusion, In topics like this there is always animosity between the "human rights" perspectives of the developed countries and the interests of developing countries Or as one Honduran classmate of mine once told me "F@#! Human Rights!".
I is stringly advisable to be more specific and seek advise from people from those affected countries in your next followup. I would recommend GhanaWeb to get input from Ghanaians who know and can discuss how a solution will benefit the people economically.
I want to hear back from you and see what you find.
cheers,
The article could be more accurate and clearer.

1. fairchocolate: Do you want all countries to stop "child labour"? Problem: In much of agrarian West Africa, children are used as labour not because Africans "need to be educated" but because work is money.Do you want family farms to be banned? Children working is not evil. Abuse is evil
2. The author equates child labour with torture, entrapment, and slavery. While the "Labour Migration Patterns.." link on the FreetheSlaves article states that there are 4 ways in with children work on farms. Only 1 is through agents, How wide spread agents is not mentioned.
3. Bad tone: The referenced articles focus too much on poverty, how large chocolate companies are, lobbying efforts, and condescendingly saying the "poor people" in West Africa "eat roots and snails". The whole thing seems insulting and degrading. Roots may be cassava which is a popular food and not restricted to any economic class, likewise with snails.
4. Nicko: Organic Cocoa can't be grown in West Africa according to Craig Sams.
5. The enthusiastic censure should be curbed a bit. On Milwaukee chocolate maker's Omanhene's website. One activist falsely posted a crude message on their forum saying that Omanhene's chocolate in made by child slaves. She didn't even apologize when another poster refered the poster to document explaining the child labor policy of Omanhene.
Remember all of the countries at the receiving end of your articles are banana republics. Ghana's economy completely collapsed when the cocoa prices fell by a third in the early 1980s.

6. Conclusion, In topics like this there is always animosity between the "human rights" perspectives of the developed countries and the interests of developing countries. One Honduran classmate of mine once told me "F@# Human Rights!".
It is strongly advisable to be more specific and seek advise from people from those affected countries in your next followup in order to respect the cultures you are aiming to help. I would recommend GhanaWeb to get input from Ghanaians who know and can discuss how a solution will benefit the people economically. What's your response to "Isn't the US dumping rice and killing our local rice market? Now you want a boycott to help us?","What work should the children do instead?" "Doesn't the United States have illegal farm workers?". I think by taking on a good cause like this you have the responsibility to provide a good answer that respects local sentiments and isn't ivory tower doctrine.
I want to hear back from you and see what you find.
cheers
I was very specific in referring to the problem as 'child slavery' instead of child labor. These children are not paid for the work they do. Some of them don't even have a choice regarding whether or not they go to the plantations (others are sold by their families with a promise for money but nothing is ever given). I understand that in some unfortunate situations, child labor is necessary for survival. The problem presented is involving slavery, and the children are physically abused.
I'm not denying that these countries are in awful economic situations; but that in no way justifies the practices being done.
I haven't heard of GhanaWeb before. Thanks for the link and I'll be sure to check that out. If I find a solution on there I'll be sure to edit the article to include that. However, there are Fair Trade farms operating in Ghana. So by boycotting Nestle, Hershey's, and Mars and giving patronage to Fair Trade chocolate instead you can still stimulate the economy in a much more productive way than purchasing, say, a KitKat bar.
From what I have read online, is that the Ivory Coast is the largest African chocolate producer. There are many controversies on this topic as the Community is aware. Child labor is unfortunate to say the least and slavery in any form as well as we are all aware. None the less, chocolate is the largest selling sweet, candy, cake, cocoa, drink, liquor, and bean on the planet especially during holidays. Intense research filling in the questions we all have could be tackled in a future article. Moreover, the article was very absorbing and interesting ... Thanks for such a well written topic. Margcata
Facepick,i really like your contribution to this article,great contribution that should be noted by Fairchocolate.but i have been educated.i will follow this article because it is one that intrests me alot.
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