“[When Aly Diabata, a former slave of a cocoa plantation, was] Asked what he’d say to the billions who eat chocolate worldwide (most of the boys have never tried it), one boy replies: ‘They enjoy something I suffered to make; I worked hard for them but saw no benefit. They are eating my flesh.’”- from a description by Abby Haglage’s in the documentary “Slavery: A Global Investigation”
The Secret to Chocolate
Chocolate is popular in America, as proven in a study which shows that each American eats ten to twelve pounds of chocolate (around the weight of a bowling ball, vacuum cleaner, or watermelon) a year on average. To most of us, this is understandable. However, many chocolate companies are unsuccessfully hiding their extensive use of child slaves.
On April 16, 2004, freelance journalist Guy-André Kieffer was abducted in a parking lot of the Ivory Coast while writing about several corrupt practices of the area, including its cocoa industry. The corruption includes the fact that the cocoa plantations of the Ivory Coast, Ghana, and several other West African countries have been enslaving over seven hundred thousand people to work on cocoa plantations. Much of this slavery is caused by the fact that cocoa farmers are paid with an average of $1.25 a day forcing them to use enslavement out of devastation. Many famous international chocolate companies, such as Hershey’s, Mars, and Nestlé have been buying cocoa from those areas where many plantations endorse in this slavery. Because of this, consumers have been aroused with complaints for over a decade. However, most major chocolate companies have promised to stop buying cocoa from farmers that use child slaves while unsuccessfully doing so.
Pathway of a Typical Child Slave
Children from countries such as Mali are usually taken by traffickers in several ways. Some children are tricked into thinking that they would receive a well paying job at a cocoa plantation. Others are sold by their guardians or relatives to traffickers for money, usually due to their extreme poverty. Many others are kidnapped. These children can range from five to sixteen years old, and are usually sold to farmers for about $230 each.
The bus is one of the major means of transportation used by traffickers. In the documentary “The Dark Side of Chocolate”, Idrissa Kante, the General Secretary of the Driver’s Union in Sikasso, Mali, is a man who kept statistics of the children he rescued from smugglers at bus stops. Of these children, the boys were aged around twelve to fourteen years old. The girls, were around eleven to twelve years old.
Typical Day of a Child Slave
The daily life of a child slave, some which are as young as five, would typically start at around six in the morning, the time they wake up. Work includes clearing forests with chain saws, climbing trees to harvest cocoa pods, opening cocoa pods with machetes, packing pods into sacks that are usually over 100 pounds (100 pounds is about the weight of an average toilet or dresser), and carrying those 100 pound sacks for long distances. The machetes commonly cause injuries to laborers who accidentally miss the object they hit the machete with.
The children usually eat scraps of cheap food, including corn paste and bananas. In late evening, they are usually locked up in small rooms (so that they cannot escape) where they sleep on hard surfaces.
A Case of Child Slavery
In the documentary “Slavery: A Global Investigation” made by the British organization True Vision Entertainment, a man of a particular cocoa plantation admits beating his
child laborers and locking them at night with a tin cup for urination. The Daily Beast describes the part of the film when the children (teenage boys) talked about their beatings as:
Before beatings, the boys say they were stripped naked and tied up. They were then pummeled with a variety of weapons, from fists and feet to belts and whips. In the film, some of the boys get up and imitate the beatings. Others stand to reveal hundreds of scars lining their backs and torsos—some still bloody and scabbed. They get quiet when the filmmakers ask whether any are beaten today and say some are simply ‘taken away.’
Children are often beat and abused as slaves in cocoa plantations. They are commonly beat
for working too slowly, refusing orders, or trying to escape. These beating are often brutal and often lead to bloodshed, leaving children with deep scars and wounds. Carrying the
heavy hundred pound loads also puts physical damage to the child’s, body. The children are also exposed to harmful pesticides which are used in large amounts to ward off or kill the many insects that reside in the area. These pesticides have been shown to affect the child for up to around thirty years.
The Cause for this Slavery
According to the Prime Minister of Ivory Coast, chocolate companies (not necessarily the
just the ones that have been mentioned) around the world have been encouraging third world countries to produce cocoa for them. This way, the cocoa that those companies buy will be cheaper.
According to Make Chocolate Fair, cocoa farmers earn less than $1.25 a day. This leaves cocoa farmers in poverty and forces them to traffic slaves, many who are children, for means of survival.
The condition of cocoa farms has stayed horribly low because of the lack of action taken to set a minimum wage in many West African countries. In 1955, the government of Ivory Coast had set up minimal price on goods, but it stopped by 1999, increasing poverty and weakening the country’s economy.
U.S. Governmental “Action”
2001 was probably the year when child slavery in the cocoa industry was exposed after the release of the documentary, “Slavery: A Global Investigation”, by True Vision Entertainment. It startled many people and demanded action to be taken against “faulty” chocolate companies.
As a result, U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel requested the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) to label chocolates which do not use cocoa involving slavery to make sure that consumers would be
aware. Before that bill could be passed in Congress, the chocolate industry intervened creating the Engel-Harkin Protocol (also known as the Cocoa Protocol) that required the participating chocolate companies to stop using child labor cocoa by 2005. On September of 2001, the protocol was signed by political representatives of the eight chocolate companies, Hershey’s, Nestlé, Mars (the owner of M&Ms, Snickers, and etcetera), World’s Finest Chocolate, Archer Daniel Midlands, Barry Callebaut, Blommer Chocolate Company, and Guittard Chocolate. When they failed to meet the deadlines, the chocolate companies extended the Protocol in 2010 when they made the The Declaration of Joint Action to Support Implementation of the Harkin-Engel Protocol, in which the companies agreed to decrease child labor in Ivory Coast and Ghana by 2020.
Essentially, chocolate companies have been delaying these contracts deadline after deadline until they have finally “promised” a deadline of decreasing child labor by 2020.
The Protocols do not seem to be working. In fact, there has been a 10% increase use of child slave labor in the cocoa industry in the years 2013-2014 since the years 2008-2009. This forces us to be the ones to take action.
The best way to stop child labor in the cocoa industry is to stop buying and consuming chocolate made by companies using child labor as a source of revenue. Again, the three major companies that are guilty for this include Hershey’s, Nestle, and Mars, although many other companies are also involved. The boycotting of chocolate will put pressure on these companies to get rid of their use of child slaves.
It is also important to watch for certifications such as Fair Trade or Rainforest Alliance on chocolate wrappers. Fair Trade and Rainforest alliance are organizations which certify products that meet high ethical and environmental standards, including good working conditions for laborers. Fair For Life and UTZ Certified are also some other certifications you can look for.
There are also many phone apps that can tell you whether or not a product was ethically made by scanning its bar code.
Buying chocolate from Latin American countries (Ecuador, Chile, Brazil, etc.) is another solution. Cases of child slavery have never been recorded to exist on Latin American plantations.
A fun solution is to make your own chocolate using certified cocoa. Although making chocolate may seem hard, its very fun and easy.
Donating to C.R.E.E.R-Africa, Slave Free Chocolate, and other anti-child slavery organizations, is another way to help.
Going beyond boycotting and spreading awareness is also another solution. Ask your local grocers, convenience stores, or any store that sells non certified chocolates if they sell Fair Trade chocolate. This may really benefit the crisis, since most places selling non certified chocolates are unaware of their situation. Another way of raising awareness is to send letters or emails to companies who buy cocoa from unethical plantations. Below is a sample letter from Slave Free Chocolate, the addresses and links to these chocolate companies, and a list of ethical suppliers, which you can also mail or email to the chocolate companies, whose contacts may be found online.
I am _______ and I recently learned that cocoa production tied to the Worst Forms of Child Labor and Forced Child Labor in the cocoa farms of Ghana and The Ivory Coast.
Being one of the companies that signed the Harkin-Engel Protocol in 2001, I know that you are not only aware of the problem but promised to remedy the situation to avoid legislation. According to the 4th and Final Tulane Report you have vastly missed the original goals that our Congress worked so hard at negotiating with you.
As a consumer we can vote without dollar, vote with our voice and vote with advocacy and that is exactly what I am doing. I am spreading the world and only buying ethically sourced chocolate.
World’s Finest Chocolate:
Archer Daniel Midland’s: https://www.thehersheycompany.com/en_us/home/contact-us.html
Bloomer Chocolate Company
http://www.foodispower.org/chocolate-list/ (list of chocolate users)