For Valentine’s Day, who doesn’t like chocolate? In fact, we eat millions of tons of the stuff every year (hopefully not each).
Here’s something I wasn’t aware of about the production of chocolate. It’s another one of those shocking things we’d rather put out of our minds when we are buying ‘stuff’, including gifts. It’s so easy to do. The production seems so far removed from us buying it in a store or online.
According to the Global Human Rights Organization, in plantations in Ghana and the Ivory Coast, where over 60 percent of world cacao is grown, children as young as nine work 12 hour days.
In a 2009 report from the US Department of Labor, cacao grown in Ivory Coast, Nigera, Ghana, Guinea and Cameroon was included on the List of Goods Produced by Child Labor and Forced Labor (3.5MB pdf download link). Apparently kids spray crops with pesticides with zero protection. The kids use machetes to harvest the cacao and carry heavy loads for long distances on their backs. They are beaten if they don’t work fast enough.
It’s not a few children either. 284,000 were estimated (in 2001) to be working in the cacao industry. Around 150,000 were kidnapped or sold into slavery by desperate families.
Well knowing that leaves rather a bad taste in my mouth.
The advice I’ve read so far says buying chocolate with a Fair Trade certificate is the way to go. If you can’t find that, buy organic chocolate, as the plantations using child and child slave labor extensively use fungicides. Organic chocolate is likely to be child slavery-free.
Here’s another article on the Hufffington Post about the exploitation of children in the cacao industry, and what can be done about it. It implicates some of the “big guys” such as Hershey, M&M Mars and Nestlé as some of the major culprits turning a blind eye to child labor, child slaves and trafficked children.
Also, do check out The Dark Side of Chocolate. In this documentary filmmakers Miki Mistrati and U. Roberto Romano shot footage of children as young as seven years old being trafficked from Mali to Ivory Coast to work on plantations. There’s a trailer that gives you an idea of what the film contains.
Oh, Happy Valentine’s Day!