Child Labor. Sometimes it is easy to think as a society we’ve moved past this practice, especially if you live somewhere where you rarely encounter children at work. But the fact is, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs, “Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana, together, produce nearly 60% of the world’s cocoa each year, but latest estimates found 1.56 million children engaged in hazardous work on cocoa farms in these two countries.”
These children are exposed to agro-chemicals, involved in the hazardous activities of lifting heavy loads and burning fields and using sharp tools. More than half of the children have reported being injured while working the fields, and the dangerous conditions on the farms can impact a child’s access to education and future livelihoods. Most of the children working in the cocoa farms are between 10 and 17 years old but some as young as 5 have also been found working on the farms.
Why Child Labor Happens
Global Slavery Index found that 20 out of every 1000 of these 1.56 million children were forced to work in cocoa agriculture by someone other than their parents. In order to better understand why this is happening, we need to understand what modern cocoa farming looks like: most farms are small and one to five hectares and the farming is often the main source of income for the families living in the communities. The farmers and their neighbors tend to live in chronic poverty, with the average cocoa farmer earning about 50 cents US per day in Cote d’Ivoire and 84 cents US in Ghana. (Extreme poverty is considered to be US$1.25/day according to Global Slavery.
The poverty level is combined with price instability for cocoa on the world markets (causing the farmers to search for cost-cutting measures), low levels of quality education, a lack of governance structures and oversight for the farms, and the fact that it is rare for cases of exploitation of children to be reported to authorities or prosecuted and these things create the perfect situation for child labor to be utilized on the cocoa farms.
Since 2017, both the governments of Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana have made efforts to tackle child labor in the cocoa industry. But that is not enough. The companies that profit from cocoa products need to do their parts to ensure they are not part of the problem.
What You Can Do About Child Labor
Green America is asking its members to sign a petition directed at Nestle, Hershey, Mars, Lindt & Sprungli, Godiva (Pladis), Ferrero, Mondelez, Meiji Co, Orion Corp, and Ezaki Glico Co. The petition demands five things:
- Pay cocoa farmers a living income
- Scale up Child Labor Monitoring and Remediation Systems to reach 100% of cocoa supply chains and prevent child labor
- Increase transparency and traceability
- End deforestation in direct and indirect supply chains
- Engage in rapid and large-scale reduction of pesticide usage.
You can sign the petition by clicking the hyperlink on the word petition above.
And you can also abstain from buying candy this Halloween and always from the companies called out in the Green America petition. Instead, buy your sweets from slave-free chocolate companies. A complete list is found here but brands you may recognize from your local stores are: Alter Eco Foods, Choklat, Divine Chocolate Co., Dwaar, The Endangered Species, Moka Origins, Newman’s Own Organics, Terra Nostra Organic, TCHO, Theo, and Vosges.
Understanding where the things you buy come from and the impact the growing, manufacturing, and supply chain has the people and the planet and making wise choices is what being a Whole Champion is about. We can make a difference by choosing to make conscious, life-affirming decisions, or as we say here, One Person, One Cause, One Day at a Time.