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About the Author

Hanna Clarys
Student (Antwerp, Belgium)

Current Study: Political Sciences at Antwerp University. Likes: reading, writing and drawing. Activities: discovering the world step by step. Dream: becoming a war journalist somewhere in the distant future...

Post

DIGGING FOR THE BROWN GOLD: Africa’s Children Working For Our Chocolate.

Published 28th March 2010 - 7 comments - 8066 views -

People around the world share a love for chocolate, one of the most delicious and pleasurable foods on earth. As Belgium is known for its finest chocolate (think: Godiva and Coté d’Or) and while I am a true Belgian Blogger, I cannot help asking myself where the primary ingredient producing those creamy chocolate fountains in Brussels’ candy stores is coming from. What About The Cocoa Bean?

 

Primary cocoa production employs around 14 million workers worldwide. Since many decades, Western Africa has been the most important region for cocoa cultivation. In just four countries – Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroun – more than 2 million smallholders produce about 70% of the world production of cocoa beans.

 

Cocoa cultivation in West Africa exists mainly under the form of labour demanding small-scale family farming. These local cocoa farmers often deal with severe problems including unpredictable income, low productivity and little access to credit. The only expenses the farmers can control are the labour expenses, which contributes to a frequent use of family and child labour on West African farms. Employing children thus becomes a means to survive, and this is where I as a Chocolate-Eating Consumer want to pay further attention to.

 

Thousands of Africa’s children are forced into labour in the production of cocoa. More than half of the children living in the rural areas of Ghana and Ivory Coast are performing work on a cocoa farm. And however this isn’t necessarily a bad thing – children helping out on the family farm is a part of Africa’s culture and traditions -, it may never harm the child. But recent research has indicated that more than 250.000 children in Ivory Coast’s cocoa industry are working under “The Worst Forms of Child Labour”, and many children in the surrounding countries (e.g. Burkina Faso) are sold as slaves to cocoa plantations by labour traffickers.

 

Starting when they are about eight years old, child workers are often totally deprived of any form of education and thus sentenced to an entire life working in cocoa production without any chance of improving their living conditions. They labour for long hours during which they have to travel great distances in the gruelling heat carrying enormous loads, using dangerous tools and facing frequent exposure to harmful pesticides. For children who were the victims of human trafficking and thus have become enslaved, the situation is even worse while they often have to suffer cruel treatment as well.

 

So next time when we feel the urge to stuff ourselves with chocolate – when being depressed or just in strong need of a warm feeling spreading from head to toe – we should think about these children and buy fair trade chocolate in stead of those fancy brands, bragging about the finest quality but contributing to child exploitation.

 

For a short documentary on this subject (in French and mainly concerning Swiss chocolate): http://www.tsr.ch/tsr/index.html?siteSect=311201&storyId=11589135

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Category: Trade | Tags:


Comments

  • Andrei Tuch on 28th March 2010:

    How about a list of brands of chocolate that are certified fair-trade? Which authority decides if the chocolate is fair trade or not? Can the companies simply declare it themselves? Who are the worst offenders? I remember hearing something about Nestle sourcing their material from suppliers with very poor labour practices, but I’d love to see sources and numbers.


  • Sholpan Gabbassova on 28th March 2010:

    We can give up wearing fur and diamonds caring about wild animals and those who work hard in insufferable conditions mining these diamonds, but it is really hard to know that children in Africa are deprived of education and childhood so that those in other continents could get their favourite chocolate. Thanks for the post, Hanna, very useful information for me. And as I know Belgian chocolate is one of the best in the world, so I am glad that young activists in Belgium like you pay attention to this problem.


  • Daniel on 28th March 2010:

    Interesting post… sometimes I don’t understand myself, when I as a consumer buy the cheapest possible kind of chocolate in order to save 1 EUR, as if chocolate was a vital part off my daily intake. Moreover, buying Fair Trade chocolate would probably not aaffect my monthly budget with more than 10 EUR, an amount I might easily spend on beer…

    @Andrei - behind each Fair Trade branding stands an organisation, and the brand basically shows that the product meets this organisations demands. The most well know organisation is FLO http://www.fairtrade.net/ , but there are several.


  • Giedre Steikunaite on 28th March 2010:

    Thanks for your post! There’s a good BBC programme about this issue (the link is on Jodi’s post “Victims of Circumstance”, but it’s only to be watched in the UK), and here is their article summarizing the programme: http://news.bbc.co.uk/panorama/hi/front_page/newsid_8583000/8583499.stm. They call it “the bitter truth”. And they hint that chocolate lovers can’t be sure they are eating a decently produced chocolate even if it has the fair trade logo… It’s just so scary.


  • Johan Knols on 29th March 2010:

    Hello Hanna,

    Interesting topic. There is only one reason why kids are being employed under these terrible conditions and that is the fact that wages are too low and the price of chocolate is not dictated in Africa but by economic forces in the west.
    “Strikes and work stoppages in Ivory Coast, which produces about 43% of the world’s cocoa, have slowed the movement of cocoa, but overall, they “didn’t have a major impact on the markets,” Cruel said. You can read the full (2008)article here: http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/Investing/Dispatch/ChocolatePricesSoar.aspx


  • Hanna Clarys on 29th March 2010:

    Thanks for your comments everyone!

    To Andrei: the following article provides more information about which multinationals are using certified Fairtrade cocoa in their chocolate and when Fairtrade is really fair trade. Just go to the following site, scroll down until you see Cocoa Barometer 2009 on your right and download the pdf file. Page 14-17 discusses your concerns: http://www.teacoffeecocoa.org/tcc/Publications/Our-publications

    To Giedre: I think that if we can’t believe that Fairtrade products are really fair trade, we can’t eat anything anymore. But of course this idea might be naïve of me, so further research concerning this is certainly a good thing.


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