Cocoa Slaves: The High Cost of Low Price Chocolate

Standing in line at the checkout, your eyes scan the assortment of candies presented before you. One may jump out at you as the best choice, while other times you ogle over each brightly colored wrapper. You might try to fight the impulse by thinking about the unnecessary calories you would be consuming or spoiling your appetite before the dinner you are about to enjoy. What you are probably not considering is where those candies or their ingredients came from; especially for the chocolate. Do you know where that cocoa was harvested?

The Source = the root of the problem

childlaborchocolateAbout 70% of the world’s cocoa is harvested from Western Africa, mainly Ivory Coast and Ghana. Since at least the year 2000, the chocolate industry has been aware that the cocoa provided from these suppliers is often harvested by children working in deplorable conditions – conditions that violate policies set by the World Health Organization and the United Nations. Children between the ages of 5 and 16 are forced to work from dawn to dusk, using dangerous equipment and chemicals, moving bags and materials that are larger than their own bodies, and fed the cheapest food as little as possible. They do not have access to bathrooms and are crammed into tiny windowless houses or sheds to sleep in. They are beaten when they are not working fast enough. They are beaten when they try to escape. Drissa, a former slave, was asked what he would tell people who eat the chocolate he helped produce. His response was that he would tell them “When people eat chocolate, they are eating my flesh”. They are eating something that he suffered to make.

How do these children end up working on these farms? They are either taken or lured by human traffickers. These children born into poverty are exploited by these predators. They are lied to and told that they will be working a good job that pays well. Their parents agree to sell them because they are told they will be taken care of and provided an education and thus a better life. And many times they are blatantly abducted from small villages in the poorest countries of Burkina Faso and Mali. Their vulnerable status is used against them in order for others to profit.

The Industry Response

Major brands in the chocolate industry, such as Hershey’s, Nestle, and Mars, have acknowledged that these conditions and situations exist, but are slow to address the issues. In 2001, the industry voluntarily signed the Harkin-Engel Protocol to abolish exploitative child labor by 2005. fairnessfairtradeThis deadline has been extended many times and is currently set for 2020, now with a goal of a 70% reduction in the use of child labor. Since the signing, the number of children working in the cocoa industry has risen 51% (totaling 1.4 million children) between 2009 and 2014. This is AFTER these companies had pledged to eradicate the use of child slave labor!

The chocolate industry is currently worth $60 billion. If money is power, why aren’t they using their power to eradicate slavery? The goal of these companies is to produce a profit, not to ensure social welfare. As long as sales continue to thrive, the industry has no incentive to change the current state of affairs. It is up to consumers to make change happen.

How can we as individuals make change happen? 

  • We can boycott these major brands and chocolate supplied from West Africa. If profits suffer, these companies will have no choice but to take action and see that their suppliers are not using slave labor and are ensuring safe and fair working conditions. That doesn’t mean you have to give up chocolate completely though. There have not been any findings of slave labor in the cocoa farms of Latin America. Your safest bet is to look for chocolate sourced from organic Latin American farms. Or look for chocolate with the fair trade logo on the package.fairtradelogos

The next two actions will take 30 seconds each:

  • Click here to sign Walk Free’s petition calling on the US Government to adopt the new international law to end forced labor. Then share it on your social media.
  • Urge Senator Booker (in NJ) to Co-Sponsor the historic End Modern Slavery Initiative Act! Please take a moment wherever you’re sitting and call 202-224-3224 – when a staffer for Senator Booker picks up, tell him/her your name, where you live in NJ, and that as a citizen and constituent that you care about ending modern slavery, and you want to see Senator Booker join 34 of his colleagues in co-sponsoring the unprecedented, bold bipartisan bill S. 553, the End Modern Slavery Initiative Act. For more information and talking points, click here and here. If you’re not in NJ, please call your own senator to find out where he or she stands and request their support of this important legislation.

Below is a list of Fair Trade & ethical chocolate companies:
Allison’s Gourmet
Alter Eco
Amana Artisan Chocolate
Artisan du Chocolat
Artisana Organics
Be Raw Chocolate
Bloomsberry & Co. Ltd
Charm School Chocolate
Chocolate and Love
Chocolate Decadence
Chocolate Inspirations Inc.
Chuao Chocolatier
Chunks of Energy
Claudio Corallo
Cocoa Cravings
Dagoba Chocolate
Divine Chocolate
Denman Island Chocolate
Emmy’s Organics
Endangered Species Chocolate
Endorfin Foods
Equal Exchange
Giddy Yoyo
Global Organics
Gnosis Chocolate
Great Bean
Green and Black’s
Guittard Chocolate Company
I Heart Keenwah
Jem Raw & Organic
John & Kira’s
Lagusta’s Luscious
Lake Champlain Chocolates
Lulu’s Chocolate
Lune Chocolat
Manifest Chocolates
Mary’s Gone Crackers
Mindo Chocolate
Moo Free Chocolates
Multiple Organics
Nada Moo
New Tree
Newman’s Own
Nicobella Organics
Nib Mor
Nirvana Chocolates
Not Your Sugar Mamas
Nova Chocolate
Organic Fair
Parliament Chocolate
Pascha Chocolate
Patric Chocolate
Perfect Fuel
Raaka Chocolate
Rescue Chocolate
Ritual chocolate
Sacred Chocolate
Santosha Chocolate
Shaman Organic Chocolates
Sjaak’s Organic Chocolates
Stirs the Soul
Sweet Revolution
Sweet Riot
Sweet Treats
Taza Chocolate
Theo Chocolate
Tierra Farm
Travel Chocolate
Wei of Chocolate
Wholesome Chow
Yes Cacao
Zimt Chocolates

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