Most people eat chocolate without even knowing that the raw material is cocoa and that cocoa is neither grown nor produced by the biggest chocolate brands. They import it from developing countries, especially from Ivory Coast (Africa) where poor and defenseless children from neighboring Burkina Faso are exploited by the cocoa producing companies.
In the article Cocoa’s child laborers of June 5, 2019, written by Peter Whoriskey and Rachel Siegel with interviews, graphics, and photos of Salwan Georges, the Washington Post analyzes this injustice: Behind much of the world’s chocolate is the work of thousands of impoverished children on West African cocoa farms. The title of article tells a lot. "Mars, Nestlé and Hershey pledged nearly two decades ago to stop using cocoa harvested by children. Yet much of the chocolate you buy still starts with child labor".
“How old are you?, a Washington Post reporter asks one of the older-looking boys.
“Nineteen, Abou Traore says in a hushed voice. Under Ivory Coast’s labor laws, that would make him legal. But as he talks, he casts nervous glances at the farmer who is overseeing his work from several steps away. When the farmer is distracted, Abou crouches and with his finger, writes a different answer in the gray sand: 15. Then, to make sure he is understood, he also flashes 15 with his hands. He says, eventually, that he’s been working the cocoa farms in Ivory Coast since he was 10. The other four boys say they are young, too — one says he is 15, two are 14 and another, 13.
"During a March trip through Ivory Coast’s cocoa-growing areas, journalists from The Washington Post spoke with 12 children who said they had come, unaccompanied by parents, from Burkina Faso to work on cocoa farms.
"While the ages they gave were consistent with their appearance, The Post could not verify their birth dates. In much of Burkina Faso, as many as 40 percent of births go unrecorded in official records, and many children lack identification documents.
"The child migrants arrive amid a vast wave of people entering from Burkina Faso and Mali. Ivory Coast is home to 1.3 million migrants from Burkina Faso and another 360,000 from Mali, according to the United Nations. Mali, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast share an agreement on open borders.
"Meanwhile, some experts note, what might be the most straightforward means of addressing child labor is scarcely mentioned: paying the farmers more for their cocoa. More money would give farmers enough to pay for their children’s school expenses; alleviating their poverty would make them less desperate."
These are some of the most striking phrases of this report (Cocoa’s child laborers) that deserves to be read. More over photos are splendid and graphics instructive. One of the conclusions is a true provocation: “Nobody needs chocolate,” it says. “It’s a gift to yourself or someone else. We think it’s absolute madness that for a gift that no one really needs, so many people suffer.”
In September 2015, a lawsuit was filed against Mars, Nestle and Hershey with this accusation: they were cheating their consumers, who, without knowing it, were in fact financing slave labor for chocolate in West Africa.
"Children from 11 to 16 years old (sometimes even younger) are closed in isolated plantations where they work between 80 and 100 hours per week. The documentary Slavery: A Global Investigation interviewed some children who were released, who reported that they were often beaten by fists, belts and whips. 'Being beaten was part of my life,' says Aly Diabate, one of the children released. 'When you were loaded with cocoa bags and you fell while carrying them, nobody would helped you. Rather, they hit you until you picked them up again.'"
(See, Il lato nero del cioccolato, in Cioccolato e lavoro minorile).
“It may be unthinkable that the chocolate we love so much could come from the hands of children who work as slaves. In the Ivory Coast, and in other cocoa-producing countries, it is estimated that there are 100,000 children working in the cacao plantations, many against their will, to produce for the future chocolate delicacies that enjoy Western countries. Ten years ago, two US lawmakers took steps to put a stop to child labor in the cocoa industry. Despite the backlash against legislation led by cocoa industry, the Harkin-Engel protocol, also known as the Cocoa Protocol, became law on September 19, 2001. On the tenth anniversary of the legislation, CNN has taken a look on which effects this protocol has had on the cocoa industry? It has, then, developed something like a manual on the main issues surrounding the forced, almost of slaves, labor on which lives this industry. Sample question: Where does cocoa come from? Answer: Between 70 and 75% of the planet's cocoa beans grow on small farms in West Africa, including Ivory Coast, according to the World Cocoa Foundation and the International Cocoa Initiative (See Fundación Mundial del Cacao in Niños esclavos, el lado oculto de la producción del chocolate).
Thus, there is what is called The dark side of chocolate: child labor and deforestation (See La face cachée du chocolat : travail des enfants et déforestation). On one side, six major brands (including Mars, Nestlé, Ferrero) owning 50% of the chocolate world market and earning between 80 and 100 billion dollars a year. On the other side, five million small producers working throughout the year for less than two dollars a day (including two million children).
"In the conventional cocoa sector, producers are underpaid and forced to follow short-term strategies. In the Ivory Coast, the world's largest producer of cocoa, producers are extending their plots to the forest to maintain their yields and incomes. 'It is estimated that about 13 million hectares have disappeared since the 1960s, or 80% of the original Ivorian forest, partly because of cocoa,' says a research. Another 'solution' for producers who are constantly caught at their throats is the increasing use of chemical inputs and ... child labor. 'More than two million children work in the cocoa sector', says the Basic (Bureau d’analyse sociétale pour une information citoyenne) in the mentioned article. Many end up in dangerous working conditions because using chemical inputs or hand machetes."
It does ring true, therefore, in our hearts, the provocative word: Chocolate is just a gift that one makes to oneself or to others. Is not it absolute madness that, for an unnecessary gift so many people have to suffer?