“The Forgotten” within the COCOA Industry

By Bruna C. Pereira:

Chocolate, the favorite stress reliever and joyful treat for both adults and children around many countries. With Easter coming around the corner, here’s something we should remember.

While we all know that things such as Child Labour does occur, we fail to realize just how bad they truly are. In fact, we cannot even imagine just how much pain, suffering hides within a chocolate bar, bunny, powder…etc which we can easily get from our local markets. Even though many activists and charities do work hard on helping this to come to an end, the attention given by the general public towards Child Labour is unnoticeable.

Instead, we have a society that is more concerned about how US-President Joe Biden fell while boarding a plane. A society addicted to drama.

Why is Slave Labor still a problem within our world? A short answer to that would be that we actually do not care unless we are affected by it. We like the things we buy, as cheap as they are and the way they currently are. While Chocolate companies enjoy keeping as much revenue as possible hoping to succeed against current competitors. Leaving the Cocoa Farmers with less and less revenue share.

The bittering reality of chocolate

The Cocoa Industry has existed for almost three centuries now, having an estimated value of USD 130.56 billion and growing its value by 4.6% each year. Even though it has such an enormous value size, it has become one of the biggest unfair trade industries in the world. Where Ghana receives an annual revenue of $1.9 billion, however, over 800,000 farmers across Ghana receive a maximum income of $1 per day.
As a result, they often depend on the use of child labor to keep their prices competitive.

70% of the world’s Cocoa comes from four West African countries: Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, and Cameroon. Where Ghana and Ivory Coast together produce 60% of that 70%, the 30% left arrive from countries like Indonesia, Brazil, and Ecuador. Making Ghana and Ivory Coast the world’s largest producers of Cocoa.

Child working in the Cocoa Industry

Child Slavery

One-fifth of African children are involved in Child labor.
According to ILAB, Norc, and USDOL about 1.56 million children from Ghana and Ivory Coast alone, engage in hazardous labor such as; The use of sharp tools, undertaking cleaning activities, working for long hours or overnight, and exposures to unprotected agro-chemical products. Products consisting of Glyphosate. (The International Agency for Research on Cancer has categorized glyphosate as a probable carcinogen for humans. Also causing liver and kidney damage.)

Each year, parents who work in the Cocoa Industry struggle to pay for education for their children, resulting in their children dropping out and having to work in order to just earn enough money for some food. Along with children who study and work but later on, give up on education due to Burnout, injuries, or illnesses.

According to the BBC and Paul Moreira (a french journalist), children from poverty countries such as Mali, Burkina Faso, and Togo are being sold to traffickers by their own parents, with the hope that they will find fair jobs and eventually send some of their income back to support their family. This, however, is never the case. Children 12-to-14-years-old (sometimes younger) working 80-100 hours a day, malnourished, paid less than a dollar a day if paid at all, beaten, exploited, alone, and forgotten.

In most cases, children are actually kidnapped, especially in Burkina Faso, the traffickers surround the children next to bus stops in hopes of luring them or just simply force them to go with them, without telling to their parents, promising fair work in Ivory Coast.

In the documentaries Chocolate’s Heart of Darkness (by Paul Moreira) and Bitter Chocolate (by Paul Moreira and DW Documentary), the reporters showed us how children are smuggled by traffickers and how a Bus driver, Indrissa Kanté, has saved 272 children from being kidnapped between 2006 and 2007.

According to both documentaries, the traffickers appear either on motorcycles, taxis, or buses. Even though trafficking has been declared illegal in Ivory Coast we can see in both documentaries just how big the ignorance, lack of supervision done by the Ivory Coast’s government truly is.

In various investigations conducted by INTERPOLS’, (International Criminal Police Organization, a global Organization), Operation BIA, it is stated that they rescued over 670 children of slave labor and child trafficking between 2009 and 2012. Children between the ages of 5 and 17 years old.

Deforestation

The problem of the current way we allow COCOA to be produced, isn’t just Child slavery, poverty, and Child trafficking. It is also deforestation. Due to lack of money and fast-growing cocoa wanted by Exporters and chocolate companies, most farmers have no other option but to rely on cheap herbicides containing a high percentage of Glyphosate. Killing, drying all minerals, water, and bacteria that supports nature life within the soil. After killing everything, workers plant the Cocoa seeds. Not only does it grow faster, but it also makes more space to grow Cocoa. Both the cocoa and the forest, however, are confronted with a huge drought due to the high levels of Glyphosate. As seen in the Documentary done by Paul Moreira, released in 2020 by DW Documentary, we can witness a chemical that seemed to derive from Tunisia, labeled with Bontravail with 780 g/kg Glyphosate. Even though the package warns about toxicity, the workers (including children) are offered no protective equipment.

As you can see where it says Attention: You are supposed to wear gloves, proper shoes, masks and you’re required to shower after the usage. None of this is done in West Africa’s Cocoa farms

The global environmental organization, Mighty Earth, revealed that in 2020 about 47,000 hectares (470 km ² ) of deforestation, more than four times the size of Paris occurred in cocoa-growing regions of Ivory Coast. Furthermore, between 1990 and 2015, 90% of the rain-forests in Africa were being affected. If we keep this rate, Africa will face a huge drought phase, no trees/plants equal to no cloud formation, no rain.

Africa’s rainforest is the world’s second-largest rainforest after the Amazon Rainforest possessing 500 million acres ( about 2 million km² ). It is important for the general public to start taking this more seriously, it is not just children that are being exploited, it is also nature. If we do not act now, we might lead ourselves to more world conflicts worse than Covid-19, which could lead to massive extinction of supplies, animals, and our very own kind. If we choose to ignore, we better not complain later, since we were warned by nature for ages now.

How Big Companies and Exporters address this issue

According to the Documentaries, Nestlé, Cargill, ADM, and Barry Callebaut all have headquarters in Abidjan, in Ivory Coast. Together these companies are said, by Paul Moreira, to buy almost the entire production of Cocoa from Ivory Coast. However, most of these companies claim that they are clueless about what goes on in the Cocoa plantations and that it is not their responsibility to hold somewhat accountable for the crimes.

In the documentary, Hendrik Bourgeois Vice president of Cargill of corporate affairs, stated that they deliver their products to Nestlé, Lidl, Mars, and others, but that Cargill, Chocovision, and most big companies have agreed to pay premium prices to help the situation in Ivory Coast and Ghana (along with other places).

However, in an article written by African News on the 12th of January 2021, this does not seem to be the case.
Mars and Heshley were accused by both the Ivorian and Ghanaian cocoa regulators, of sourcing an unusually high volume of physical cocoa on the ICE futures exchange in order to avoid paying premiums to elevate poverty levels in the countries among local farmers. Even though they reneged on a pledge to pay premiums of $400 per ton of Cocoa. The Ivorian and Ghanaian cocoa councils accused the companies of a conspiracy to keep farmers in poverty. Hershey replied that it was sourcing the crop according to ‘the needs of our business’ while Mars affirmed that it had supported initiatives to improve incomes and livelihoods of farmers.

In a further article by African News on the 12th of February 2021, around 2005 six Malians reported that they were captured as children and held in slavery within Ivorian plantations. These plantations produced most of their cocoa for companies like Cargill and Nestlé. The Malians further claimed that the companies were well aware of what was and is going on in the plantations. The US Court validated the accusations under the law of “Alien Tort Statute”, which allows the referral of violations done internationally to US Courts. In 2018 however, the law had new rules, the court has repeatedly restricted its scope, by prohibiting prosecutions of foreign companies and acts of complicity.

“The two groups *abhor* child slavery, but that’s not the point. If we are not careful, prosecutions of this kind will proliferate, last for decades and undermine our foreign policy.” claimed the companies lawyer Neal Katyal.

In an email sent to Paul Moreira, seen in the video, Nestlé replied to Moreira claiming that since they have no direct contact with the farmers, that they are therefore not responsible nor in any way accountable to the Child Labor problem in Ivory Coast.

The problem here is that, even when companies such as Nestlé and Cargill know of what happens inside those farms, they still act somewhat ignorant to the fact that Exporters like Saf Cacao or Coopaweb (labeled with Fair Trade) have no traceability in Ivory Coast, of where the Cacao is coming from. With this in mind, makes their promise of making sure that they follow sustainability schemes (No child slavery, deforestation..etc) pointless.

While Cargill did offer Ghana a new way of tracing where the Cacao is coming from, as seen in the Bitter Chocolate documentary, where they commercialized on their website how there are bar-codes on Cacao beans bags. There is still no trace of that technology in Ivory Coast, responsible for about 42% of the Cocoa production. Making Ivory Coast the biggest Cocoa producer. (Ghana = 18%).

Traceability is the key to put an end to this issue.

How to help:

To start off we shouldn’t avoid the topic, neither forget about the topic, it is every child’s right to be able of having dreams and goals for their future. No child should have to give up on just being a child. We as good developed countries should act and behave as examples unto these countries, by acknowledging that just like we need their products, work, sweat, and time, they too need ours. Now it is our turn to thank them for every unfair work, suffering, every child and adult had to pull through in order to give us the chocolate we love.

  • Spare some time to research at-least a little about where your chocolate is really coming from.
  • Do not over-consume Chocolate if you do not need to. Or cut Chocolate completely.
  • Keep getting informed and also Spread the word
  • Before donating, search who really is behind the cause and how much of the given donations actually arrive there
  • If possible instead of money, donate clothes and food as those things are less likely to not arrive at their given places with less value
  • Take part in peaceful protesting/demonstrations (while it might not change much, it will show care and raise awareness from the general public. Which is what we need if we want to convince, those in a higher power, to take action)

How to take a stand, learn more here: We stand with Slave Free Chocolate

Donations:

Even though it is very hard to know which NGOs and charities we can trust, here’s a list of Charities I believe are honest in their intentions;

Make a difference against Child Labor in the Cocoa Industry by just Adding your name to Mighty Earths mission: CHOCOLATE COMPANIES: STOP HURTING KIDS (You can also donate against deforestation on their website)

Donate to Salvatti.pl: A school for children with no chance for education If you have questions about the Donation contact Professor Agrégré under: assevinc@yahoo.fr

Donation for Justice: The International Rights Advocates are fighting for Court cases of Cacao former-slaves one of them being the one I mentioned above with Nestlé and the Malians (case ongoing until June 2021).

Volunteer or Donate to Food is power read more here: Food is power


Bibliography:

Paul Moreira, Bitter chocolate | DW Documentary (2020)

Paul Moreira, Chocolates Heart of Darkness, (2001)

Child Labor in the Production of Cocoa, (www.dol.gov)

‘The future is very poor’: Ghana cocoa farmers decry low prices (africanews.com)

Nestlé, Cargill ask U.S top court to stop child labor lawsuit (africanews.com)

Cocoa wars: Ivory Coast, Ghana and chocolate makers row over premiums (africanews.com)

Chocolate Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis Report By Product (Traditional, Artificial), By Distribution Channel (Supermarket & Hypermarket, Convenience Store, Online), By Region, And Segment Forecasts, 2020 – 2027 (www.grandviewresearch.com)

Cocoa prices and income of farmers (makechocolatefair.org)

History of Chocolate (www.history.com)

Herbicides and Your Health (www.webmd.com)

Is There Slavery In Your Chocolate? (www.johnrobbins.info)

Operation BIA, Interpol (www.interpol.int)

Ghana: Cocoa Farmers Get Only $1 As Daily Revenue from Their Production-Research (africaneyereport.com)

Cocoa production in a nutshell (makechocolatefair.org)

CHILD LABOR AND SLAVERY IN THE CHOCOLATE INDUSTRY (foodispower.org)

Chocolate and Child Slavery: Say No to Human Trafficking this Holiday Season (foodispower.org- Huffpost)

Africa’s rainforests are different. Why it matters that they’re protected (theconversation.com)

Mighty Earth’s Cocoa Accountability Map 3.0 Reveals 47,000 Hectares of Deforestation in Prominent Cocoa-Growing Regions of West Africa (mightyearth.org)

Child Labor and Forced Labor Reports (www.dol.gov)