The Not-So-Sweet Price of Chocolate Labor Trafficking

Love is in the air as Valentine’s Day approaches to keep us warm from the cold. Shortly after, Easter comes bustling in with sweet tooth cravings for chocolate eggs and chocolate bunnies. Do you smell the intoxicating aroma of chocolate being sold in stores everywhere already? Does it make your mouth water as you hope to receive some from your sweetheart?

The taste of chocolate may turn out to not be as sweet or as lovely as you think, for there is a great bitterness attached to it. Have you ever thought about the process of creating chocolate?


Bitter Slavery Behind Chocolate Production

It begins with the gathering of cacao (cocoa) beans, usually found in Cote d’Ivoire (such as village of Sika Nti), Ghana, Mali, and a few other select countries in the world.  Advocacy group International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) states:

“Estimates indicate that 500,000 to 1.5 million children are engaged in agricultural labor on cacao farms – much of which is considered hazardous child labor. … Even more concerning, recent research indicates that child trafficking may be on the rise.” (source)

Planting and picking cacao is actually very rough and dangerous work. Children have to use sharp machetes on the trees and spray insecticides and herbicides without any protection. These children want an education but are instead forced into hard labor. This comes usually by living in poverty. Their families need the money, but they make far less than minimum wage and work up to 100 hours per week. Their palms swell from weeding large areas of land and exposure to chemicals reacting to the blood they shed.

One rescued man said this:

“Our master used us as slaves. He took us there and never paid us a penny. He said that if anyone escaped, they would be caught and killed.”

This man also explained how, if someone tried to run away, they would get tied up, stripped naked, and viciously beaten in front of the other slaves to be made an example of.

“A moving exchange came as Kate asked a young man named Amadou how he felt about his five and a half years in slavery.  Amadou replied with remarkable sensitivity: ‘When I think of all that suffering, it hurts my heart deeply. I want to say so much, but I just can’t find the words.’ Kate then explained to him that cocoa was used to make chocolate, a sweet food that people love, but Amadou said he never knew this and had never tasted it.  When he was then asked if he had anything to say to the millions of people who eat chocolate every day, Amadou replied, ‘If I had to say something to them, it would not be nice words. They enjoy something I suffered to make; I worked hard for them, but saw no benefit. They are eating my flesh.’”

ending slaveryThe quotes above were taken from the book Ending Slavery: How We Free Today’s Slaves by Kevin Bales. Click on the title or cover image to explore this resource further.

Many goods traders end up buying cocoa beans from slave-induced cacao plantation farms. The beans then get sold to large chocolate companies along the way.  Many companies have not researched exactly where their beans originate, but there are fair-trade and slave-free companies that do trace such things.

While many companies such as Hershey, Nestle, and Mars have been pressured to find out where their chocolate journey originates, they usually they do nothing. After receiving complaints and petitions for a few decades, Hershey finally stood up and declared that they plan to be fair-trade by the end of the decade. (Source

To read more on the truths of slavery and the chocolate industry, check out this article from the Food Empowerment Project.

Fair Trade Chocolate

Perhaps you wonder: “Okay, but how does fair trade chocolate taste?”

First: Does taste really trump human rights? Would you rather taste the blood of slaves like Amadou’s?

Second: There is some delicious fair trade chocolate already on the market.

We at Justice Network highly recommend very good tasting fair trade chocolates such as Divine Chocolate.  Divine has good relationships with their farmers (45% of the farmers own the company) and gives jobs for those suffering in poverty while helping provide education for the farmers’ children.  Not only that, but the chocolate is extremely delicious.

Some other delicious Fair-trade chocolate companies are listed below. Some of these are in the United States; some in the United Kingdom. Most offer online orders through their website links.

You can buy fair-trade at Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods,and from various small independent shops such as Louisa Chocolate Bar in Cape May, New Jersey.


  1. powerful story..i hope you don’t mind, i re-posted it on my wp page…
    i think it needs to be put out there as much as possible…
    great story, and thanks for keeping us all aware of the truth behind some things that look so sweet (no pun intended) 😉

Leave a Reply to Selah Vita Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.