Chocolate Slavery...The Bitter Truth
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CHOCOLATE SLAVERY FACTS:
The cocoa industry creates billions of dollars a year. The Ivory Coast produces nearly half of all the world's cocoa, West Africa collectively, supplies nearly 70% of the world's cocoa.
In the 21st century, slavery still exists. As a matter of fact, according to the Department of State, the number of slaves is higher than it's ever been with an estimated 600,000-800,000 people trafficked yearly for slavery.
Of the 600,000-800,000 people trafficked, 70% are female, and 50% are children.
There are about 600,000 cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast, with an estimated 15,000 children forced to work as slaves on these farms.
It is estimated that 90% of cocoa farms on the Ivory Coast use child labor.
Ahhhh chocolate. One of my favorite indulgences. When we think of chocolate, most of us think of the joy it gives us and the sweet melt in your mouth satisfaction we get from this cocoa bean derivative.
Most people enjoy this succulent treat without any knowledge of chocolate slavery and tortured children. The truth leaves a bitter taste.
The Ivory Coast is the top supplier of the world's cocoa, and the center of chocolate slavery.
Slave traders are trafficking boys, between the ages 9-16, from their homes mostly in Mali, but including Burkina Faso, Ghana and Togo. Some countries are transport points, while other receive and supply the children.
The main destination is the cocoa farms in Ivory Coast where the boys are lured by promise of a salary for their hard work. One they arrive, they are forced to work from 6am to 6pm or later without pay.
They must carry backbreaking sacks of cocoa, are often starved, beaten and locked up at night without toilet facilities.
ALY DIABATE'S STORY
"When I was 11 years old, I was taken by a slave trader and sold to a farmer in the Ivory Coast. For 4 years, I worked 80 - 100 hours per week. I was beaten. At night we were locked into a windowless shed - 18 boys
in a 20' x 25' room. We had a bucket to use instead of a toilet.We were let out only to work."
Aly Diabate was promised a bicycle and $150 for his family in exchange for his work on a farm in Ivory Coast. Once he arrived at the cocoa farm of "Le Gros" (the big man), life was not as he had expected. He and the
other children were forced to work 12 1/2 hours every day in the fields.He was forced to carry bags of cocoa that were taller than his four foot frame. The other would help hois the heavy bag onto his head and when he
fell down, the boss would beat him with a bicycle chain until he stood back up and lifted the bag again.
When night fell, he and the 18 other slaves were locked in a 25' X 20' room with only a can to use for a toilet and hard wood plank to sleep on.
Aly is one of the luckier ones. One day a boy was able to escape and reported Le Gros to the Auhorities. The farmer was arrested and the boys send back home.
Le Gros had to pay Aly the equivalent of U.S.$180 for eighteen months work. Aly is left with physical and mental scars. He had nightmares of the beating every night.
Many of the children are not as lucky as Aly. They are still slaves on the cocoa farms, subjected to beating, abuse and overall dehumanization every day.
So why does this chocolate slavery still exist when we know about it?
Chocolate slavery is able to exist because of a number of factors. There is a lot of secretiveness on the farms about abuse. The Ivorian farms are usually small and located in remote areas where people do not travel.
Most people involved in the cocoa trade have never seen these remote farms. Even if they did visit, it's difficult to see the abuse because the owners are good at hiding the truth and the children often look like they are part of the family from the outsiders view.
Ivory Coast has been dependent on exports historically, and approximately 1/3 of the Ivorian economy is based on cocoa production. The government has encouraged production by offering various incentives to growers.
Unfortunately, cocoa is considered one of the most unstable commodities in terms of fluctuating prices, so farmers are always looking for cheaper ways to produce it. Poverty levels are extremely high in West Africa, so this is where most slave traffickers prey.
There is a cultural variable involved as well. The farmers and other people use their own children to help cultivate cocoa beans, so some farmers do not see why it is wrong to use the labor of other children. I
n Africa in general, the sight of children working is quite common and not necessarily seen negatively.
So while there are many factors involved in the existence of chocolate slavery, the solutions have been slow in coming.
In the last decade, there has been a great deal of outrage against chocolate slavery, but again, the answer lies with us, the consumers. Sadly, most of the chocolate you see in stores is "slave chocolate."
Love chocolate? Want to help end chocolate slavery? Buy your fair trade chocolate now at Chocolate.com. They have an amazing selection of really good chocolate products!
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Simply, buy only fair trade chocolate and cocoa products. Consumers hold ALL the power.
Write your own letter to the chocolate companies listed below and include the following demands:
* Identify and take responsibility for every farm producing their cocoa worldwide.
* Make a substantial and sustained investment in Fair Trade Certified cocoa.
* Monitor all farms that produce their cocoa to make sure no child labor is used.
* Commit more funding for rehabilitation and education programs for cocoa children.
* NESTLE USA: Brad Alford, Chairman and CEO, 800 North Brand Blvd., Glendale, CA 91203 (view sample letter)
* CARGILL: Gregory Page, Chairman and CEO, Cargill, Inc. PO Box 9300 Minneapolis, MN 55440-9300 (view sample letter)
* ARCHER DANIELS MIDLAND COMPANY (ADM): Patricia Woertz, CEO, 4666 Faries Parkway, Decatur, IL 62526 (view sample letter)
Image: Francesco Marino / FreeDigitalPhotos.net