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