A piece of chocolate can be the highlight of anyone’s day. Whether you are sad, happy, or just have a sweet tooth, a piece of a velvety chocolate can bring joy and comfort in our lives. Unfortunately, this same chocolate has a dark history behind it.
There are approximately 2 million children between ages 10-17 engaged in child labor in the cocoa industry in Ghana, which accounts for 60 % of total world cocoa production. The International Cocoa Initiative stated in a report published in 2018 that some children are forced to work in the cocoa sector by someone other than a parent. An estimated 1.7 children per 1,000 children in Côte d’Ivoire and 20 children per 1,000 children in Ghana were forced to work by someone other than a parent between 2013 and 2017.
Sadly, many companies are still importing cocoa beans harvested by children who are being exploited or enslaved, mostly on the continent of Africa. The Washington Post recently published the following:
In 2001, some of the biggest chocolate companies signed a pledge to eradicate ‘the worst forms of child labor’ from their West African cocoa suppliers. It was a project companies agreed to complete in four years.
When asked this spring, representatives of some of the biggest and best-known brands — Hershey, Mars and Nestlé — could not guarantee that any of their chocolates were produced without child labor.
Other companies that were not signatories, such as Mondelez and Godiva, … likewise would not guarantee that any of their products were free of child labor.
Working in agriculture is not easy at any age. Imagine that you are a small kid handling pesticides without the proper protective clothes, using rusty and sharp machetes, and carrying heavy loads for long distances. The cocoa tree is harvested over a period of several months, since the fruit doesn’t ripen all at the same time. This means harvesters are exposed to pesticides in great quantities. In the book Labor Practices in the Cocoa Sector of Southwest Nigeria with a Focus on the Role of Children, Gockwsky and Oduwole said that many children handle pesticides without using any protective clothing during application. 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.”
If slavery, exploitation, and pesticide exposure wouldn’t be enough, the children harvesting the cocoa are also exposed to many other safety and health hazards such as:
- Musculoskeletal injuries from repetitive and forceful movements, and lifting and carrying heavy or awkward loads
- Heat exhaustion
- High levels of sun exposure, which can result in skin cancer
- Injuries from cutting tools, ranging from minor cuts to severing of body parts
- Skin abrasions
- Poisoning and long-term health problems from using or being exposed to pesticides
- Being hit by falling cocoa pods
- Snake and insect bites
- Long working hours
Unfortunately, poverty is the main cause of child labor in any industry. Parents always want the best for their children but when real poverty faces you, you are forced to choose what is best for one person vs. the family. In the process, children are robbed of their childhood, innocence and education in order to help sustain the family.
AFOP’s Children in the Fields Campaign invites you to stop for a minute and take stock of what you can do to stop supporting the industries that purchase cacao beans harvested by children. Do your own research, draw your own conclusions, and take action TODAY to stop child labor.
Previous blogs about chocolate:
Other Resources: https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/child-labor-cocoa