“The Worst Form of Child Labor” in the Cocoa Industry

Cocoa beans in the hands of a farmer.

Anya Stakenas

Chocolate is a sweet that comes in many different varieties and forms. It is a treat that Americans often take for granted, but in places where it is produced, this commodity is nothing more than a burden and curse. Much of the world’s cocoa is produced in sub-Saharan Africa, and in many places this luxury is forcing children to undergo “the worst form of child labor”.

Definition of “The Worst Form of Child Labor”

“The worst form of child labor” is a term that is used in only the most extreme circumstances. By definition it is slavery in every form, work which a child could have their morals, safety and health harmed, using a child for illegal activities and using a child for prostitution or anything that is remotely sexual.1 Because of the low prices that African cocoa farmers are being paid, they use underage children in order to have competitive prices.2 These children are being taken from their homes or sold to farmers by relatives. They work in unbearable conditions and many hours a day. Children have been found to be between the ages of 12 and 16 but some have been found to be as young as 5 years of age. Many of these children work at these farms until adulthood, never knowing a life outside of the cocoa farms.

The Conditions that the Children have to Work and Live in

The children that work on the cocoa farms have many struggles that they are forced to face. Cocoa plants that are about three to four years old reach heights of about five feet tall.3 Young children have to climb up these plants and cut down the cocoa pods with a machete as their tool.4 There are many dangers that come with children using such a sharp tool. They run the risk of severely wounding themselves. After the cocoa pods have been cut down, the children force the pods open with the same machete. If the child’s hand happens to slip during this process they could lose an appendage.2 Sharp tools are not the only hazards that these kids face working on cocoa farms. To keep pests away that would destroy a harvest, they spray the fields with chemicals.4 During the process of spraying the cocoa fields, children use no sort of protection from the harmful pesticides. Without proper protection the children are susceptible to respiratory diseases and infections. Children face a variety of hazards while producing cocoa, including dangerous tools and pesticides that can hinder their health in a major way.2

The Cocoa Supply and it’s Statistics

The cocoa in Africa makes up for 70% of the world’s cocoa and is supplying the world by unethical methods.2 So large companies such as Hershey’s, Mars, and Nestle are all importing cocoa from West-African farmers that use slave and child labor to harvest and gather cocoa. Cocoa farms use slave labor from children that are between the ages 12 and 16. About 40% of children working in the farms are not enrolled in any schools and only 5% are paid for their work.4 Companies that produce chocolates from the cocoa that they buy from sub-saharan Africa never state on their packages where they import from. So it is hard to tell if your purchases are harming someone across the globe. They state on their packages that their imports are ethical but taking other measures they could be using a loophole. This is a factor that consumers should take into consideration before purchasing chocolate.


Chocolate is something that Americans love and the industry is huge, but the people that these companies import their cocoa from are unethical. Much of the world’s cocoa is produced in sub-saharan Africa, and in many places this luxury is forcing children to undergo “the worst form of child labor”. Little is being done by companies to stop this injustice but spreading awareness can bring about a change in this cycle of pain and torture in children’s lives.


1International Labour Organization. The Worst Forms of Child Labor, Education and Violent  Conflict. (2010). United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Retreived from http://unesdoc.unesco.org

2International Labour Organization. The Worst Forms of Child Labor, Education and Violent  Retrieved from http://www.foodispower.org

3Grant A., Cocoa Tree Seeds: Tips On Growing Cacao Trees. (April 4, 2018). Gardening Know How, Retrieved from https://www.gardeningknowhow.com

4Child Labour In The Cocoa Farms Of Ivory Coast And Ghana. (2016). Global March, Retrieved from http://www.globalmarch.org

Is this the end of the Northern White Rhino?

By Amanda Babcock

On March 20th, 2018, the last male northern white rhino was euthanized 1. The rhino, named Sudan, suffered from a long struggle with an infection in his back leg. At the elderly age of 45, he was passed reproduction age and was no longer able to stand properly. Therefore, the veterinary team at Garamba National Park, where Sudan lived out his final years, was forced to euthanize the last hope for a nearly extinct species.

A rhino handler stands beside ‘Sudan’ at Ol Pejeta Conservancy.

We came to such a bleak outlook relatively quickly. By contrast, 50 million years ago there was a diverse group of rhinos that varied drastically not only in size but in climate acclimation2.

Today, however, there are only five subspecies of rhinoceros; white, black, one-horned, Sumatran, and Javan (located in Asia). In the 1970s and ‘80s, the highest and most effective genocide of the northern white rhino took place. The northern white rhino was wiped out of Uganda, Central African Republic, Sudan, and Chad. Their numbers were decimated further in the 1990s and early 2000s, there were 20 or 30 in the wild, located in Garamba National Park. Finally, in 2008, there were only four left. The species was then considered extinct in the wild. In 2014, their numbers dwindled to three. Now, in 2018, we’re left with only two.

This isn’t the first time we’ve allowed this to happen, however. In 2011, poaching wiped out another subspecies of rhinos; the western black rhinoceros. These did not receive nearly the worldwide attention that the death of Sudan has brought.

The last northern white rhino in the US, deceased since 2015

Indeed, it is the hope of conservationists that Sudan’s death will give enough attention to this issue that we will see both more funding and worldwide change to poaching 3. The Chief Executive of Ol Pejeta Richard Vigne highlights this; “We on Ol Pejeta are all saddened by Sudan’s death… but also the many thousands of other species facing extinction as a result of the unsustainable human activity. One day, his demise will hopefully be seen as a seminal moment for conservationists worldwide.” After all, if there were to be more attention paid to this issue, why couldn’t we save the other rhinos? We could use the northern white rhino as a symbol to remind people of the consequences of poaching, as we failed to do when the western black rhinos were driven to extinction.

Though the northern whites are the most current victims of the extreme poaching taking place, they’re far from the only ones. All five subspecies of rhinoceros have been driven near to extinction because of their horns.
However, this discussion of the apocalypse of the rhinos begs the question; why has it come to this? There are a few key reasons why the rhino horn is so valued in different parts of the world.

Some action has already been done without limited success by conservationists.

In Yemen, upon reaching the age of manhood, boys are presented with a dagger called a “jambiya” with a hilt of ivory from a rhino. This signifies boys are now men and devoted to Islam. In China, where the Javan rhino is located 4, rhino ivory has been used as early as the 7th century AD. There, they would carve the ivory into ornamental pieces. In addition, other parts of Asia would use rhino ivory in traditional medicines. This was used to treat different diseases and disorders. In Persia as far back as the 5th century BC, vessels from carved ivory were said to be able to detect poisonous liquids, this belief carried on to the royal courts of Europe.

Though the outlook for the northern white rhinoceros seems quite bleak, all hope is not lost. One of the first things we must do is restrain the growing price of ivory. The illegal trade is driving up the already sky price of an ivory horn, made worse because it’s being viewed as a nonrenewable resource 5. If we were to make it clear that rhinos are more economically valuable alive than dead, they could have less potential to be murdered so often and so brutally. Rhinos do in fact grow back their horns in time, and if they were to lose their horns and then grow them back, it would be more sustainable to everyone because there would continuously be more ivory and more ivory producers.

Another important part of this is disproving once and for all the notion of any truth to ivory used as a medicine. This, however, is even more difficult to bring about. Ivory as medicine is more traditional and is more of a cultural icon than fact. It’s likely that believers in the power of ivory as a cure wouldn’t listen to any explanation contrary to tradition. However, with the growing attention of the world due to Sudan’s demise, it’s more likely than ever that there would be a chance for change to occur.

Lastly, even though Sudan has passed away, all hope is not lost, even for the northern white rhino. With today’s technology, there is still a chance to bring it back 6. Scientists are now potentially able to create a surrogate pregnancy with the northern’s close cousins, the southern rhinos. If a southern rhino were to have a surrogate pregnancy with the egg and sperm of two northern white rhinos, this subspecies could be brought back from the edge of extinction. It would take years, decades even, for two artificially made rhinos to reproduce on their own and to continue their species, but now, the possibility remains of the northern white rhino, back from the dead.


1.Dixon, R. (2018, March 20) “The last male northern white rhino has died, spelling probable extinction for the species” Los Angeles Times www.latimes.com

2. Pavid, K. (2018, March 20) “White Rhino Sudan dies: is all hope lost for this subspecies?” Natural History Museum www.nhm.ac.uk

3. PBS Nature (2010, August 20) “Rhino Horn Use: Fact vs. Fiction www.pbs.org

4. Zachos, E. (2018, March 2). Survival of Northern White Rhino: Hinges on Last Sick Male National Geographic Retrieved http://news.nationalgeographic.com

Land of the Forgotten

By Jaelynn Tarrant

Male African elephant taken by Gary M. Stolz, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.


What would it be like to live in a world where elephants seize to exist? The reality is, we aren’t too far away from living in this world. Poaching has influenced a huge threat to the population of elephants around the globe, but especially in Southern Africa. Beginning in the first century, the illegal hunting game has changed the way middle-easterners experience their lives. The silk road introduced ivory to western nations, sprouting an industry that would soon become a notion for wealth in China and surrounding Asian countries. 1  Elephants were up to 1.3 million in 1970, but quickly declined due to the killing of the animal for their ivory tusks. Big game hunters and human civilization pushed the species to nearly a population of nearly 600,000 by 1990. So what does this mean for Africa?

Kruger National Park in Southern Africa is a hot spot for elephant poaching. Nineteen elephants habituating within the park had been killed by October of 2015 – twelve of them killed between September and October of that year. “South Africa can expect elephant poaching to increase dramatically in the Kruger Park,” said wildlife filmmaker and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Dereck Joubert. In Mozambique, most of its elephant population have died due to poaching. Collecting ivory as a result of poaching comes from the countries of Tanzania, Mozambique, and Central Africa. “The ivory trade appears to be professionalizing fast, with heavy involvement of police, border guard, and political criminal networks,” according to a report published last year by the Animal Advocacy Group Born Free USA. “Given the ease of rhino poaching in South Africa, fears of serious, professionalized ivory poaching in the Kruger Park are well founded.” Edna Molewa, South Africa’s environment minister doesn’t express any concern for elephant poaching. She stated, “We did an ivory once-off sale, and elephant poaching has not been a problem since.” This sale occurred in July of 2008, when China and Japan were given permission by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the international organization that regulates the wildlife trade, to buy 108 tons of ivory from four southern African countries. In those countries – Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa – elephant populations were regarded as relatively healthy. However, this sale spiked the poaching crisis. A 2008 report by the Environmental Investigation Agency showed that demand for ivory increased significantly after the 2008 sale 2. As illegal as it may be, ivory is once again on the Asian market, where only the wealthy are able to purchase the expensive gem. 

China has been the largest consumer of ivory for decades. Dating back to the first century, China’s demand for ivory extends more than for jewelry and decorations. The Chinese have used ivory for medicinal purposes for hundreds of years. They also believe that ivory can be seen as a social status, where the more ivory you possess, the more successful you appear. Ivory has been believed to bring the Chinese good luck, and if you hold a piece, it could protect you against harmful poisons. Seventy-percent of the world’s ivory remains in China. However, there is an international trade ban on ivory. Introduced in 1989 by CITES, China made an agreement to no longer allow the beloved jewel  into the country. Nearly ninety five-percent of China’s population believes ivory should be a precious hardware that belongs on the animal and not in man’s possession 3. Other countries disagree with this treaty, and continue to illegally buy the ivory. Countries like Vietnam believe it’s part of their tradition and send big game hunters in search of the species beholding the resource that has been adorned on a wealthy man’s chest for years. But is the poaching crisis only affecting African and Asian countries?

Elephant hunting is not a sport that American citizens can actively take part in. Safaris can cost more than $50,000 per person, plus the additional costs of bringing the animal itself home. Poaching an elephant can cost over $100,000 – and all for a decoration.

Poaching has been a threat to species’ existence for decades, yet hardly anything has been done to stop this harmful hunting. Humans have become more selfish along the years, wanting nothing more than trophies of a foreign animal in their house. Africa’s animals are quickly dwindling in population, just as fast as the bans on international trade are being lifted. Poaching branches out across the world, even to our own soil. America plays just as big a factor in poaching as any other country in demand of ivory. To learn more, visit washingtonpost.com Soon, elephants and rhinoceroses will be extinct and the next generation will have to read about them in history books; much like we do dinosaurs.




1.Wikipedia contributors. “Ivory.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 23 Apr. 2018. Web. 23 Apr. 2018

2.. Mark Strauss, 2015. “Who Buys Ivory? You’ll Be Surprised.” https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/08/150812-elephant-ivory-demand-wildlife-trafficking-china-world/

3..”Threats to African Elephants.” WWF Global, 1961. Accessed April 23, 2018. http://wwf.panda.org/what_we_do/endangered_species/elephants/african_elephants/afelephants_threats/