Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Stuff You Need To Know: Child Slave Chocolate

 Source: Wikipedia
Creative Commons Licence
"...As of 2001, up to 12,000 children working in Côte d'Ivoire, the world's biggest producer of cocoa, may have been victims of trafficking or slavery. Most attention on this subject has focused on West Africa, which collectively supplies 69 percent of the world's cocoa, and Côte d'Ivoire in particular, which supplies 35 percent of the world's cocoa...It is estimated that more than 1.8 million children in West Africa are involved in growing cocoa...In 2013-2014, an estimated 1.4 million children aged 5 years old to 11 years old worked in agriculture in cocoa-growing areas, approximately 800,000 of them engaged in hazardous work, including working with sharp tools and agricultural chemicals and carrying heavy loads."

(Source: Wikipedia , 24 July 2016)

I'm not an expert on chocolate, human trafficking, slavery, or cocoa production, but I am a mother, and the idea of forced child labour sends my maternal rage-o-meter into the red zone.

This is important. And it's really happening.

Before I go any further, a disclaimer: I have only a layman's knowledge of this subject, gleaned from the research I have done in my personal capacity. I do not receive any benefit or income from the links or images I've put in this article, but have inserted them to acknowledge my sources as well as provide options for you to do your own readng. If I have misquoted, misunderstood or misrepresented anything, I'd welcome any input and feedback, so that I can make any necessary corrections.

Imagine that this is your child...

Boy collecting cocoa after beans have dried 
Source: Wikimedia
Creative Commons Licence
On cocoa farms, the job of clearing bush for plantations is often done by kids using dangerous implements like machetes. In addition, cocoa trees are treated with pesticides and fungicides - mixed and applied by children and without protective clothing. Harvesting and transporting cocoa beans are often performed by young children. According to Wikipedia, the director of the Save the Children Fund described "young children carrying 6 kilograms (13 lb) of cocoa sacks so heavy that they have wounds all over their shoulders." (Source: Wikipedia)

Now, imagine it's  your seven or eight your old doing that kind of hard labour. Makes you think differently about Mama's little treat, doesn't it?

The Facts

According to slavefreechocolate.org and Fortune, (March 2016) there are between 21 and 27 million slaves in the world today. Of them, anything between 5,5 million and 9 million are children. 

Around 1.8 million children work on cocoa farms in Ghana and the Ivory Coast. 
Children are being trafficked in everyday to work on cocoa farms as slaves. The average cost for a child is $250. 

In addition, these children have almost no hope of education and improving their circumstances - the 12-hour work day of a cocoa farm labourer makes attending school almost impossible (Source: Wikipedia). 

An International Labour Organization survey in 2002 concluded that there were roughly 12,000 child laborers in Ivory Coast who had been trafficked. Today, while it seems like human trafficking numbers seem to be falling, it's still happening.

And, as far as child labour goes, things seem to be getting worse. According to Fortune, a study by Payson Center for International Development at Tulane University, (a private, four-year research institution in New Orleans, Louisiana, found that 2.1 million children had been engaged in inappropriate forms of child labor in Ivory Coast and Ghana combined in the 2013-14 growing season. This is a 21% increase on the 1.75 million identified in its survey five years earlier. Of those, 96% were found to be involved in “hazardous activity.” (Source: Fortune, March 2016) 

The Payson Report also estimated that over 1.4 million children ages 5 years old to 11 years old were working in agriculture in cocoa-growing areas, and approximately 800,000 of them were engaged in hazardous work, including working with agricultural chemicals, carrying heavy loads, and working with sharp tools. (Source: Wikipedia). 

Why is this happening?

The key driver of human trafficking is poverty. In the 2013-14 growing season in Ghana, Cocoa farmers made just 84¢ per day. In Ivory Coast earnings were a mere 50¢. To put this in perspective, the World Bank’s standard for extreme poverty new is $1.90 per day. This means that cocoa farmers are in desperate need of cheap, controllable labor. Added to this is the fact that its somewhat "normal" for for West African for children to leave home in search of greener pastures at an early age - either voluntarily, or out of desperation, (Source: Fortune, March 2016)

Cocoa prices are unstable and producers also typcially only earn half the world price for their crops, because they have to use middlemen to sell their crop. Most cocoa farms are small, isolated family operations. Farmers cannot communicate among themselves about prices, leaving them at the mercy of buyers, who pay cash for and transport their crops. The low cocoa price paid to farmers, contributes greatly to the spread of slavery. (Source: slavefreechocolate.org)

In addition, chocolate manufacturers do not buy cocoa directly from farmers, but rather from these middlemen and commodities brokers, who mix up cocoa beans from a wide variety of producers. This make tracking the "journey" that cocoa beans take from planting to sale extremely difficult. This lack of traceability means that manufacturers can claim some level of deniability. 

Finally, because many consumers are unaware of the issue, we fail to put pressure on manufacturers to use only cocoa from ethical sources.

What is being done?

Women attending cocoa farming training
Source: Wikimedia Commons 
Creative Commons Licence
Most major chocolate companies, are making an effort to increase the amount of beans they buy that are “certified” as sustainably grown. Farmers involved in certification programs are trained in best practices and sign a pledge not to use child labor (Source: Fortune, March 2016) 

The Harkin–Engel Protocol is an international agreement, signed in September 2001, and aimed at ending the worst forms of child and forced labour in cocoa production. Unfortunately, it is unclear if the protocol has actually reduced child labor in the production of cocoa. The cocoa industry claims five of the six articles have been addressed and the final one is being actively pursued. (Source: Wikipedia).

What can you do?

One of the easiest things to do is to buy only organic chocolate as this is almost always ethically sourced. You can also buy Fairtrade chocolate. This requires NO extra effort and NO extra expense. Look for the Fairtrade logo. 

Locally available, Fairtrade certified chocolate
"Fairtrade is an ethical certification system which aims to promote more equality and sustainability in the farming sector. A product that carries the Fairtrade label has met rigorous Fairtrade Standards, which focus on (1) improving labour and living conditions for farming communities, and (2) promoting farming practices that don’t harm either people or the environment." (Source: Fairtrade)

You can find out more about Fairtrade here, and download their printable brochure here.

You can also look for other certifications as listed on slavefreechocolate.org, here.

Some other suggestions from slavefreechocolate.org are:
  • Write to chocolate manufactures, raising your concerns and notifying them that you will not be purchasing their products
  • Educate your community about the appalling conditions on cocoa farms, and encourage those around you to buy only Fairtrade certified chocolate, and lobby manufacturers.
My voice is small, and my following here is a drop in the bucket of the blogosphere. But if reading this post makes just a few people aware, then that's a good thing. 

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