Farms in the West African nation, Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire) are responsible for more than 40-percent of the world’s cocoa beans. Here cacao trees produce flowers that develop into pods filled with cocoa beans. Workers harvest the pods, and cut them open, usually with machetes, to collect the white coated cocoa beans within. The beans are then dried in the sun, bagged, then sold to an intermediary. The intermediary then sells the cocoa beans to national exporters who wash, pack, sell, and then ship them to chocolate manufacturers.
In 2008 the BBC news station, Knight Ridder Newspaper and multiple independent journalist conducted investigations of child slavery and the exploitation of child labor with the chocolate production in the Ivory Coast. Many children are often from poor families and are promised paid work. Children ranging from the ages of 7-16 work long hours which sometime add up to 80 hours a week. Children are forced to carry heavy loads, working with dangerous tools like machetes and are exposed to pesticides. When children fail the expectations of the farm owners they are often beat with bicycle chains and whips.
Similar conditions take place in the production of coffee. Child labor is a major part in the production of coffee beans in Guatemala, Colombia and Ivory Coast. Even if child labor is not the main labor, workers are exploited by the coffee farm owners sometimes receiving only 1 percent of what their bosses receive. In some Guatemalan coffee farms worker have to produce 100 pounds of coffee before being paid $3 in three days.
In October 2011 the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB) issued a report, List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor, indicating that 71 countries make 130 goods that are produced with child labor or forced labor. Agricultural crops most prominently utilize child labor. Both coffee and sugarcane are among a short list of common agricultural goods produced by children.
To help prevent child labor and exploitation of workers in countries across the world consumers of chocolate and coffee can buy products with the fair trade logo. By purchasing products with the fair trade logo, helps support and organize unions in 48 countries around the world.
According to Global Exchange, fair-trade certification benefits over 800,000 farmers that are organized into cooperatives and unions in 48 countries around the world. However, the demand for fair-trade products is still too low for such farmers to sell their entire crop at fair-trade prices. By buying fair-trade chocolate we increase the demand for products free of abusive child labor and slavery.
In addition to buying fair-trade chocolate, we can also buy fair-trade certified sugar and coffee, two crops which are also significantly tainted by child labor.
Title: Combating Slavery in Coffee and Chocolate Production
Author: Jeff Nall
Publication: Toward Freedom, 05 January 2012
Faculty Advisor: Sheila Katz, Sonoma State University
Student Researcher: Maurisa McElhinny, Sonoma State University