75% of the world’s cocoa supply comes mainly from two countries in West Africa; Ghana and the Ivory Coast. Cocoa from this region is sold to many chocolate companies including Hershey’s, Mars, and Nestle. These companies in chocolate industry benefit directly from child labor, human trafficking, and modern day slavery. In order to compete, cocoa farmers need child labor to keep their prices low because they are barely paid a living wage for their beans by these multi-million dollar chocolate companies.
Children end up working on these farms for several reasons. They need to work to help support their families, they are sold by relatives to traffickers and farm owners, or they are abducted by traffickers from their small villages and sold into slavery. The age of these boys is usually 12 – 16, although boys as young as 7 have been filmed doing the dangerous work of harvesting cocoa pods. These kids are subject to beatings for working too slowly or trying to escape, they are exposed to toxic chemicals that are sprayed on the farm, and they work with machetes with the potential to sever appendages. The children on these farms are not allowed an education, proper nutrition, and they live in unsanitary conditions.
Ten years ago the major chocolate companies promised to do something about these children and traffickers. So far NOTHING has been done! This year, they have made promises again to eradicate slavery from their supply chains, but it will be up to us, the consumers to hold them accountable. If we keep buying their chocolate, we are continually contributing to the problems and misery of these kids. Every holiday, every special occasion, every day chocolate lovers around the world indulge in the chocolaty goodness of child slavery!
The ILO says that the worst forms of child labor include, “likely to harm health, safety or morals of children”, if the children use “hazardous tools”, and the work “interferes with schooling”. This describes what the children in West Africa live with daily. For years Hershey’s, Nestle, and Mars have sourced their cocoa from these child abusers without batting an eye. Only now, they have pledged to do something but is it just a public relations trick? They say it’ll take years to source fair trade chocolate, but should we still go on buying their products waiting for the day when these kids are given a better way of life. In another 10 years, the same problems will still exist and nothing will have changed unless, we take a stand today and stop buying slave produced chocolate, even on holidays and special occasions. Most Americans have no idea where their favorite products come from…if they only knew, imagine the changes that can be made. When your craving a candy bar, go for the ones that actually care about human beings…try a Green and Blacks, Alter Eco, Theo, Whole Foods Whole Trade Chocolate, Equal Exchange, and Sun Spire, just to name a few. Slave harvested chocolate is cheap. In order to pay farmers a fair wage and to source from farms that use ethical and sustainable practices, Fair Trade chocolate companies have to charge more for better quality! Chocolate used to be a luxury and maybe convenience and low prices shouldn’t be the driving force behind our purchases. I want to challenge you to take a stand, encourage your family and friends to join you too! Together we can make a difference!!
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