(part of the Lost Childhood series)
(70% Of World's Cocoa Produced With Child Labor)
As your child (and most likely you too) set out to enjoy this Halloween's bounty of chocolate laden treats there is a very important question that needs to be answered... Where did that chocolate come from?
West Africa produces just over 70 percent of the world's supply of cocoa. Each of the countries that produces this cocoa allow the use of child labor on their vast cocoa farms. The largest producer of these five countries, Ivory Coast, also permits and often encourages the use of forced labor (slavery). All are known to have large human trafficking rings active within their borders supplying children to work the fields of the sprawling cocoa plantations.
This is where your Halloween chocolate comes from.
Trafficking And Chocolate
The children who are sent to the fields to collect the cocoa are not always victims of trafficking. Yet as the demand for cheaper chocolate goes up the number of children being trafficked into the slave trade goes up too. These children, often purchased or bribed into slavery, are subjected to physical, mental, and sexual abuses in an effort to force them into submission. The goal of the trafficker is to break the spirit of the child so that the chances of a runaway becomes minimal.
Children who are trafficked in Western Africa can be used for many things throughout their life as slaves. Some will be used as child soldiers in times of conflict. Others can become victims of sexual violence and abuse. The use of children as sex slaves is a growing problem across the globe as "sex tourism" becomes an ever increasingly lucrative trade. Yet despite these more notable abuses, most children trafficked in West Africa will be used at some point as child labor. This allows the trafficker the ability to make a reliable income off their slaves while waiting for other higher earning jobs to come along.
This horrific reality is one that children who are trafficked in West Africa face. They have no say in where they are forced to work or what abusive task they will be forced to perform. From the moment they wake up in the morning to the moment they are allowed to go to sleep they are forced to work in one way or another. There is no rest for these children. With each passing day the hope of freedom is ground out of them as they are degraded and abused at the whim of their owner.
It is modern day slavery.
Chocolate comes into the picture as trafficked children are "employed" on West Africa's vast cocoa plantations. These large operations (many of which are supported by chocolate giants like Hersey's) willingly and knowingly pay the traffickers as the children take to their fields. The use of slave labor allows these farms to increase their yields in multiple ways; including inhumane treatment of forced laborers, longer hours, more strenuous tasks performed, and little to no time for rest between heavy tasks.
The children who work on these plantations are subjected to physical abuse for even the most minor infringements or accidents. If injured while performing dangerous tasks the children are expected to continue working. If an accident includes a life threatening injury the child is given the most minimal treatment and then beaten before being sent back to work. Mercy is not commonly shown to these children.
Avoiding Chocolate Produced With Child Labor
When buying chocolate this holiday season there are multiple ways to insure that you are buying chocolate that was not made with cocoa produced with child labor (or slave labor). Though the first way is rather simple really, just don't buy chocolate. But for most this way is just too difficult since we have a horrible addiction to the sweet sensations chocolate produces in our mind and mouth. So ignoring the obvious solution of avoidance... here are a few ways you can have a guilt free chocolate fix.
This route is expensive for both the consumers and the farmers alike. While it ensures that the chocolate you are buying was produced by a farmer who was paid a fair price and produced it using ethical labor practices; it does not tell you how much the farmer paid for that certification. This is the portion of that label that is often overlooked. And yet it is important to note that the farmer (or farmers, which is most often the case) had to pay thousands of dollars to gain that label.
So while you can rest assured that the farmer did not use child labor you cannot rest assured that the process is as nice and neat as you would be led to believe.
Besides the thousands of dollars spent to get certified (which could had been used to invest in the workers themselves), the farmers are often paying dues to cooperatives. This increases the amount of money the farmers need to make before their product is worth the time it takes to produce. The increased cost also drives down the amount the farmer would otherwise be capable of paying their workers.
Yet, outside all this, in the case of child labor and chocolate production fair trade is a valuable tool in helping you avoid chocolate made utilizing child labor.
The vast majority of organic chocolate comes from South America. So while all organic chocolate may not be completely child free, the source country on the label should indicate another country outside West Africa. This method allows you to decide to buy chocolate that is not produced in the five countries mentioned in the first picture (all of whom are well known for child labor). Yet unless you research the country of origin it does not assure you that the producer did not utilize child labor.
This method requires the consumer to research both the producer's labor practices and the common labor practices of the country where the cocoa came from. It also may require the consumer to research the ecological cost of cocoa produced in countries that are home to the Amazon Rain Forest.
The most direct way to find out where your chocolate comes from and how it was produced is to put in the effort to research the producer and the country of origin. This method allows you to both gain knowledge of how your chocolate was produced and where it comes from. To do this you will find it is easier if you find a brand that is Fair Trade or certified organic. You may also want to find a brand you like (since that is the reason behind buying the product anyway).
Once you find a product you know you want and just can't live without the real fun starts...
First you want to make sure that your chocolate is not made with cocoa from Africa.
Then try and find out just how many companies or facilities the product has gone through before reaching you. Chances are that if the product takes the shortest route from farm to shelf it is child labor free. If the product has to go from one country to the next (and then some) the chances for utilizing child labor in the production and/or harvesting of the cocoa goes up. It also means that less of your money is going back to the person who produced the cocoa in the first place.
These two steps will greatly reduce the probability of your chocolate being made through the use of child labor or slave labor.
Don't want to do all that work?
You can always visit sites like 'Stop The Traffik' to learn more about buying chocolate made without child labor. You will still have to do a little reading. But if you made it to the bottom of this post and didn't switch over to a YouTube video of cats or whatnot... I guess a little more reading won't kill you.
Happy Halloween From All The Alder's Ledge Team
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(note: not all sources listed)
Food Is Power.org
Stop The Traffik