Child Labor and Child Slavery in the World: Cocoa Harvesting on the Ivory Coast
Since Christopher Columbus poured a cocoa bean bag before the Spanish royal court in 1502, chocolate became a favorite sweet in Europe. Nearly half of all sweets are made with chocolate. In Central Europe, from nine to ten kilograms of pure chocolate - almost two 100-gram tiles per week annually consumed per capita. At the same time, nobody ever calculates how much chocolate is consumed in the production of different creams and cocoa drinks.
The finished product is usually manufactured in the US and Europe. Germany, processing 260 thousand tons of raw cocoa, is ranked third in the world after the Netherlands and the United States. Thus, more than 700 thousand tons of chocolate products worth nearly 3.5 billion euros profit made in 2013. The cocoa beans and cocoa powder is usually exported from Ivory Coast (Republic of Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana) - the world’s largest producer of cocoa beans. It has huge cocoa plantations. Each year, Côte d'Ivoire supplies to the global market more than 600 thousand tons of cocoa beans. Ivory Coast produces 40% of world’s cocoa volume, and West Africa as a whole - almost 70%. Nearly every chocolate bar, which lies on the shelves of stores and supermarkets all over the world, contains cocoa powder coming from Côte d'Ivoire or Ghana. However, nobody pays a close attention of how the Cocoa powder is produced and who brings the most favorite sweet – chocolate – to the tables of children all around the world. The plantations are cultivated with the help of guest workers from neighboring countries. About 2 million Malians work in Côte d'Ivoire. Throughout West Africa, due to the cocoa plantations, there are 1.2 million small peasant households or 11 million employees.
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However, the profit obtained by small farm workers is catastrophically low. Thus, the average company on cocoa production for the entire annual harvest earns 340 euros. The main reason for this are the low prices on the world market. Over the past 20 years, their fluctuations ranged from 870 to 4000 euros per ton. The tendency to fall is constant, and it forces the farmers to reduce the production price as much as possible. As a result, the farmers chose child labor that does not cost anything except a bowl of maize porridge a day. Everyone loves chocolate. 3 million tons of chocolate eaten each year, half of consumers make European countries. Nevertheless, the success of the chocolate has a dark side. While children in wealthy countries enjoy the sweet taste of reality for African children appears quite different. Therefore, this paper is to investigate the prevalence of chocolate slavery on the Ivory Coast and examine the steps taken towards its elimination.
Chocolate Slavery in Western Africa
To date, about 20 thousand children from Mali are kidnapped and taken away by large plantations of Côte d'Ivoire, according to human rights organization “Terre des Hommes”. They were beaten, humiliated and exploited. Most of the children do not know where they came from, not to mention where they are. From 1441 to 1880, various European colonizers transported across the ocean no less than 60 million Africans as slaves, many of them - to Côte d'Ivoire. Since 1960, this former French colony is independent. But then again, the sale of children has created a new form of slavery. Only in West Africa, there are 200 thousand of children, considered cheap labor force. The reason for it - as if it may sound crazy - the country’s wealth - the Ivory Coast is the world’s largest cocoa beans and cocoa powder producer.
Child labor has long been used in West Africa. Children are slaves dumped here from all over the continent children are stolen and forced to harvest cocoa plantations. Many of them have been kidnapped in the Ivory Coast or to the nearby African countries. Some children get a penny for their work. Otherwise, they are made to work for food, so, basically, they are in the position of slaves. The main exporter of cocoa beans and cocoa powder in the world is currently Côte d'Ivoire. The country has 600,000 farms engaged in growing and harvesting them. These plantations make from 200 000 to 300 000 children to do hard labor. From 6,000 to 15,000 children involved in this work are considered slaves.
In 2000, the Mali consulate found several Malian boys who were not paid for a job for five years and were beaten for each attempt to escape from the plantation in Côte d'Ivoire. Juvenile slaves (some of them were under 11 years) were supplied to the plantations of the Ivory Coast is not only from Mali but also from Togo, Burkina Faso, and other neighboring states. The organized groups that specialize in small slaves wielded in West Africa. World chocolate makers prefer to turn a blind eye to it - after all, the use of free child labor allows restraining the price of cocoa. According to the Prime Minister of Côte d'Ivoire if the planters are forced to provide their employees with somewhat acceptable working conditions, the price of cocoa beans increases up to 10 times.
The Cocoa Problem in Brazil
After Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, and Indonesia, Brazil is the world’s fourth producer of cocoa. Most of the enormous cocoa plantations in the region belong to incredibly wealthy landowners – fazendeiros. Many of them no longer live in the area but moved to Rio de Janeiro, New York or Paris. More than 150 thousand people cultivate the plantations. Many of them are seasonal workers; their average salary is about 43 euros per month. Since this money is not enough to feed the family all the members are working, from young children of 7 to elderly aged 70 and 80. However, young workers get a lower wage – 30 euros per month, which is also considered a labor discrimination.
Despite the fact that Brazilian workers are employed on better conditions that African children, in recent years, farmers all over again trying to take over the land and maintain their own household. The landowners disperse the peasants with the help of police and of groups of mercenaries. Since 1986, 120 people were killed or injured in such clashes.
Chocolate Producers Monopoly
In 2001, the US State Department said that the Ivorian cocoa plantations, coffee and cotton employ not less than 15 thousand children slaves. At the same time, the world’s largest chocolate producers are well aware of who collects cocoa for them in Africa. In particular, the company Cargill Inc. Cargill prohibited child labor - the official working age is above 18 years. However, this law is ignored. Chocolate industry, Governments and organizations for the protection of civil rights have created an international campaign aimed at the solution of the problem; however, child labor is still exploited. To free themselves from the responsibility, large companies, such as Cargill, caution that cocoa plantation do not belong legally to chocolate producer. Therefore, officially, they do not use the child labour since they do not employ or hire underage individuals. They just buy cocoa beans from the workers. Yet human rights activists say that the responsibility for improving working conditions lies on such companies. There is not chocolate with a fair trade label being produced without the use of slave labor.
Nestle company, which is one of the largest producers of cocoa and chocolate, is accused in the use of child labor. Most of the plantations and the enterprises belonging to the company are located in West Africa where a child labor is active utilized. For example, in Côte d'Ivoire, giving 40% of the world harvest of cocoa beans, not less than 109 thousand children work at cocoa plantations. Moreover, the working conditions on the plantations are extremely heavy and are recognized now the worst in the world, among other options for using child labor. In summer of 2005, the International Fund for workers’ rights filed a lawsuit against Nestlé and several of its suppliers, on behalf of former child slaves who worked for these companies. The lawsuit is active until today and includes not only Nestle Company but also other “chocolate giants,” e.g. Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland. Moreover, Nestle is connected to child labor not only in connection with cocoa harvesting, but also its other supply chains for raw food in Thailand. This case was also filed in court in 2015.
Low cocoa prices, resulting from the usage of a cheap labor force, are very profitable on a handful of the European and North American food corporations, especially those that process the cocoa in chocolate. World production of cocoa captured several firms, spread all over the world as a network of farms, plantations, factories and shopping centers. These companies are able to dominate the entire industrial sector. The ruling concerns produce well-known brands, for instance, Nestle (Switzerland), Mars (USA), Kraft (USA), Ferrero (Italy).
The situation is getting worse because of the regulation by the European Union, which - also under pressure from concerns - since March 2000 allows reducing the content of cocoa butter in chocolate per 5 percent of the total weight. Nestle company intend to use palm oil and other fats instead of cocoa butter since it is cheaper. Nevertheless, for the producing countries of the European Union such a decision means the reduction of annual cost per 580 million euros. First, it will undermine the foundations of the existence of small farmers, who make up nearly 85 percent of the market.
The Fight against Cholate Slavery
Companies producing chocolate declare their ignorance and inability to control suppliers. Companies and government officials argue that child labor and child slavery does not exist. The few who are trying to fight against slavery are a local Interpol, periodically conducting raids to release children and individual activists.
The first attempt to bring the world’s attention to child slave labor in Côte d'Ivoire has been undertaken in 2000, when television reporters filmed True Vision, Channel 4 and HBO documentary entitled Slavery: A Global Investigation, which showed children’s scarred backs after the punishment or whipping for the sluggishness in the work. Then the world first learned how much suffering is enclosed in a single chocolate bar.
Bringing light to the “chocolate issues” continued in 2001, when the US-based media Knight Ridder showed a series of four documentaries about the cocoa farms in Côte d'Ivoire. The documentaries depicted how children aged 9 to 16 years do hard labor, are sold into slavery, sometimes by their own parents, are exported to Côte d'Ivoire from Burkina Faso, Ghana, Togo and Mali, suffering from malnutrition, forced to sleep 16 people in a room of 7 x 6 meters size, working 12 hours a day, deprived of their childhood and the future. The data shown in the documentary has caused criticism in the US chocolate industry. Its representatives recognized the existence of a problem but insisted that the responsibility in this case lies on the owners of plantations, as companies are not the owners of the cocoa farms.
As a result, Senators Harkin and Engel designed “Harkin-Engel Protocol” or “Cocoa Protocol” which was signed by Hershey’s and M&M’s/Mars among other companies. The document was aimed to stop child slavery completely by 2005, when all the products of participating companies will be certified as “not involved in a slave labor”. The companies have committed themselves to implement the program in West Africa, aimed at improving the lives of cocoa plantation farmers and inform them of the consequences of child labor, including child trafficking. However, two years since the signing of the Protocol almost nothing has been done. Chocolate Industry protected its investment: it kept the initiatives ongoing as long as they did not affect the key point - cocoa beans prices. Heavy child labor and child slavery continued to exist.
In 2003, at a seminar in Washington, representatives of the chocolate industry had presented the results of studies of the International Labour Organization and UNICEF, which showed that more than half of children working on cocoa plantations never went to school because the practice of agriculture lies in the culture of the African people. These conclusions, however, were at odds with the results of the child labor that indicated poverty as the main cause of severe child labor studies experts. Sending children to school is very expensive for many farm families. According to the company Fair Trade USA, an independent US certification organization according to the rules of Fairtrade Foundation, African American farmers receive 1 cent for each 60-cent chocolate bars sold in the United States.
By 2005 - the appointed date of its completion - Harkin-Engel Protocol initiative remained working only on paper, so the deadline for the program was extended until 2008. By 1 July 2008, the companies committed to implementing a certification system, according to which 50% of cocoa farms in Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire are to be checked for compliance with established standards. Followed by the announcement of new programs, the chocolate-producing companies continued to buy raw materials, manufactured using a heavy child labor. In June 2008, the chocolate industry pledged to introduce a certification system completely by 2010.
On September 3, 2010 a new Harkin-Engel Protocol appeared and its framework was signed by the governments of Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire and the US Department of Labor. The ultimate goal of the new protocol was the reduction of child labor and its worst forms in cocoa growing sector in Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire by 70% by 2020.
In January 2011 the European Union introduced against Côte d'Ivoire economic sanctions in response to the refusal of Laurent Gbagbo to recognize the results of presidential elections, which, among other things, meant that the country could not sell cocoa beans, is one of the main articles of the country's exports in the world market . As a result, the price of cocoa beans have soared on the New York Stock Exchange to its highest level since 1979. 11 April Gbagbo was arrested by French troops, and the European Union took off Côte d'Ivoire economic sanctions, which made it possible to resume the supply of cocoa beans which have accumulated in the quantity of 400 000 tonnes in the major ports of the country. Prices have fallen, the risk of shortage on the chocolate was gone.
In the same 2011, Roberto Romano made a documentary The Dark Side of Chocolate on the use of the cocoa industry in the slave children. It has been almost 10 years since the adoption of the Harkin-Engel Protocol, but in spite of several measures taken by Faitrade Foundation movement and by Fair trade USA organization in order to improve the work on the cocoa plantations by, for example, the suspension of the activities of cocoa farms activity in the event of the use of child labor, the rights and fate of African children today are not a point of interest to many chocolate manufacturers, who declare their ignorance regarding the working conditions in the cocoa bean producers.
Nowadays, the efforts of Fair Trade USA have brought some visible success towards bringing the light and reducing the selling rate of the chocolate, made with the use of child labor. There are companies that are certified by Fair Trade USA as “eco-chocolate.” Under “eco-” one can understand not only not using child labor, but also the denial of using pesticides and chemicals for cocoa beans processing. It is easy to recognize a chocolate bar, which was produced without the use of child labor, it contains Fair Trade label on the package. The concept of “fair trade” that emerged in the 1940s, created to help the poor citizens of the developing countries that sell their crops to more affluent segments of the population of countries with developed economies. At present, Fair Trade is an organization that collaborates with companies that provide jobs for people and give them the means to live. When the chocolate has a mentioned mark, it means that when its production is not used slave labor and children, as well as the fact that the product is natural, and in its manufacture chocolate trees are not sprayed with pesticides and other chemicals.
Child Labor in Industry and Agriculture
Child chocolate slavery is the example of the most horrifying social challenge of modernity. However, it is also important to understand that there exists an overall modern trend of using the child labor. One of the most common types of free slave labor in the Third World countries is child labor in agricultural work, at factories and mines. In total, at least 250 million children are exploited in the world, with 153 million children exploited in Asia, and 80 million in Africa. Undeniably, not all of them can be called slaved in the full sense of the word, since many children in factories and plantations still receive salaries. However, there are cases when free child labor used by means of buying children from parents specifically as free workers.
The price for a chocolate bar nowadays is not very high and a rare western individual, especially a child can deny buying it. This is the quickest source of happiness one can ever find. However, knowing how much suffering stands in the background of a single chocolate bar, it does not seem such a satisfactory thing. Unfortunately, chocolate manufacturing is connected to one of the most horrifying notions in today’s society – child slavery and forced employment. Despite the steps towards this issue elimination are being taken for 15 years, nothing positive happened. There is only the hope that large chocolate manufacturers will stick to the signed protocols and legislative acts and the situation will be improved in future.
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