Black History: Special Delivery!!
The cocoa bean which is used to produce chocolate grows mainly in areas of Western Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Western African countries supply more than 70% of the world’s cocoa. Cocoa produced in West Africa is sold to many chocolate companies around the globe. The rampant use of child labor in the production and harvesting of cocoa is beginning to receive media attention. West African farms supply companies such as Hershey’s, Mars, and Nestle; which begs the question…….Are these companies getting rich on the backs of child labor and slavery from West African countries?
The process of harvesting cocoa is a dangerous one for adults, let alone children. Due to the low selling price of cocoa, farmers often seek children to harvest their crops because employing adults to do so would cost too much money. Cocoa farmers, on average, earn less than $2 per day which places them below the poverty line.
Many of the children in West Africa deal with the crushing effects of poverty and many of them begin working at a young age to help support their families. Some children are lured to the cocoa plantations by traffickers who promise them good wages; while some are kidnapped from their villages and forced to work on the plantations. In either case, children are forced to work in dangerous conditions and are often denied access to education. On average, these child laboreres are between the ages of 12-16, though some have been much younger. A child’s workday on a cocoa plantation would normally begin at 6am and ends in the evening. Children perform duties such as, operate chainsaws to clear the forests and also use of machetes to help harvest cocoa. Children also come into contact with dangerous/toxic pesticides as well; all of which are violations of international labor laws. They can face severe beatings if they refuse to work, work to slowly or try to run away. Surprisingly many of the farmers and child laborers have never even tasted chocolate before.
While some lament the treatment of children in the cocoa industry; they question why the large companies who profit from the cocoa crop don’t do more to stop the problem. There has been an international outcry to the major chocolate producers to address the issue by paying farmers a living wage for their products. The chocolate industry is also being asked to help rescue children who have been sold to cocoa farms. To date, very little has been done. Why would a multibillion dollar industry with the resources to resolve this issue allow it to continue? Some say the answer is GREED.
Chocolate is a luxury and not a necessity. Consumers may play the biggest role of all in stopping the exploitation and abuse of children; by protesting with their wallets and NOT purchasing chocolate that is produced with cocoa from West Africa.
Check out this video from CNN which shows interviews of some West African child slaves.