Adrienne Fitch-Frankel of Global Exchange details the conditions still present in cocoa fields:
The slave trade in the West African cocoa fields, which regularly produces in the neighborhood of 70% of the world’s cocoa, led to public outrage after a series of media reports nearly a decade ago revealed the extent of abusive child labor and slavery in the cocoa industry. Soon after, a report by the US State Department and International Labor Organization revealed the scope of the problem: hundreds of thousands of children in abusive child labor in the cocoa fields. Twelve thousand of these children were in the cocoa fields without relatives nearby, a red flag for children who have been trafficked….
A new report released since last Valentine’s Day shows that the cocoa industry is still stringing chocolate lovers along with its promises, making a mockery of its commitment to “Immediate Action.” Last October, Tulane University’s Payson Center released its much-anticipated Second Annual Report, monitoring child labor in the cocoa industry and progress on the Harkin-Engel Protocol for the US Department of Labor.
Among the many disturbing statistics of the true costs of chocolate to the children who are producing it are the heart-wrenching statistics of children who are suffering for our chocolate. Among child cocoa workers between the ages of 5-17, 43% in Ivory Coast and 74.7% in Ghana report injuries while working in cocoa production, including wounds, broken bones, and snake bites. For the chocolate we enjoy, 23% of Ghanaian cocoa workers ages 5-17 endure back pain, which could have some relationship to another statistic in the report: 69% of Ghanaian child cocoa workers carry heavy loads while they are working.
Even more heart-wrenching are the stories of ten survivors of child trafficking into the cocoa fields, who were interviewed for a pilot survey after returning to their country of origin. Only two of the children had been paid at all for their years of service, and even those had been paid next to nothing. None of the children had freedom of movement while on the farm, eight of the ten children had been beaten regularly, and one had been sexually abused. The children reported working in the cocoa fields alongside other child slaves and knew of yet others in the community….
First, the cocoa industry can step up its foot-dragging efforts to end the worst forms of child labor. Pressure has been mounting from dozens of chocolate companies, social justice organizations, faith-based groups, labor unions, citizens, consumers, investors and retailers, including those who signed on to the “Commitment to Ethical Cocoa Sourcing,” drafted by a group of concerned institutions including international human rights organization Global Exchange. Second – and here is where both consumers and industry can make a difference – the industry can shift toward Fair Trade certified products. Fair Trade certified cocoa is produced under standards that prohibit forced labor and the worst forms of child labor. And Fair Trade pays farmers a price that enables them to send their children to school so that they in turn can build a better future for their families.
Congratulations to Cadbury, which announced yesterday that it would be converting its Dairy Milk bar (accounting for 20% of its chocolate bars produced) to Fair Trade certified sources from Ghana.