Chocolate is processed from cocoa pods. About two-thirds to three-quarters of the worlds cocoa comes from West Africa and since 2001, world attention has focused on Ghana and the Cote d’Ivoire as two cocoa producing countries that employ large numbers of child laborers to harvest cocoa. The chocolate industry is a $50-billion industry with billions of consumers. West African cocoa is sold to commodities brokers and mingled with cocoa from other sources. Despite the efforts of the chocolate industry, child labor advocates, and the West African governments, many chocolate products consumed in the U.S. and Europe are—or could be—the products of child labor.

For Love of Chocolate…On World Chocolate Day, We Look at the Human Cost Behind Chocolate

There’s no doubt that humans love chocolate. Globally, we consume $80 to $100 billion worth of it a year. Despite its popularity and the joy it gives us, there is a dark side to chocolate: cocoa, its main ingredient, is often produced by child labor. The US Department of Labor (USDOL) identifies this as the case in six countries: Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.

In two of those countries, the Côte d’Ivoire and Nigeria, USDOL notes there is forced labor on cocoa plantations. There is also evidence that thousands of children have been trafficked to work on cocoa plantations from neighboring countries Mali, Burkina Faso, and Togo.

A 13-year-old cocoa worker in West Africa. [From the Robin Romano Archives of the University of Connecticut]/

A 13-year-old cocoa worker in West Africa. [From the Robin Romano Archives of the University of Connecticut]/

Exploitation in chocolate’s supply chain became hotly discussed in 2000 and 2001 when media reports about wide-spread child labor in the West Africa nations of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, where the majority of cocoa was being produced, were published.

Congressional leaders were alarmed about the reports. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) introduced legislation that would require child-labor free chocolate to be recognized with a label. The measure passed the US House of Representatives but it didn’t take long for everyone to realize that wanting child-labor free cocoa and delivering on that promise were two very different things. The nature of cocoa farming made it a very difficult crop to remove child labor from cocoa production. The region features hundreds of thousands of small cocoa farms operating in jungle-like topography. The region is lacking much infrastructure, including thousands of schools that would be needed to educate all the children working in cocoa.

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10 Facts About the Latest Research on Child Labor in West African Cocoa Growing Areas from Tulane University:

[On July 30, 2015, Tulane University researchers released their latest study — “Survey Research on Child Labor in West African Cocoa Growing Areas”– we present highligths here written and compiled by Mary Donovan, contributing writer to the CLC.]

  1. Child labor in cocoa production in West Africa is increasing. The total numbers of children in cocoa production, child labor in cocoa production, and hazardous work by children in cocoa production in West Africa all increased from 2009/10 to 2013/14. In 2013/14 there were 2,260,407 children working in cocoa production in West Africa. 1,303,009 of those children work in Cote d’Ivoire and 957,398 work in Ghana.
  1. A plan to eliminate child labor in the industry exists. Fifteen years ago, representatives of the international cocoa industry signed the Harkin-Engel Protocol “to eliminate the worst forms of child labor in the cocoa sectors of Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire.” The Protocol provides a framework for accountability and outlines action steps. The Ministers of Labor from Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire signed a Declaration of Joint Action to support the implementation of the Protocol in 2010. In spite of this initiative, child labor in cocoa production in West Africa has increased.
  1. Cote d’Ivoire experienced an especially large growth. The numbers of children working in cocoa production increased by 59%, the number of children doing child labor in cocoa production increased by 48%, and the number of children doing hazardous work in cocoa production grew by 46%. Cote d’Ivoire is the world’s largest cocoa producer.
  1. The number of children working in cocoa production fell slightly in Ghana.
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How Can We End Child Labor In The Fields? Pay Farmers Better

By Beth Hoffman, contributor to Forbes

A few weeks ago a request for internal documents from the chocolate giant Hershey’s Co moved forward, with a judge ruling that the company will have to share confidential information with its shareholders.  The Louisiana Municipal Police Employees’ Retirement System brought legal action against the company in 2012, asserting that the company knowingly bought cocoa from areas plagued with child labor issues.

Even though Hershey’s is the company targeted in the lawsuit, human rights abuses like child labor are still rampant throughout the food supply chain.  Although companies like Mars or Nestlé now publicly discuss child labor in their supply chains, these issues are unlikely to go away when these same companies rely upon cheap land and labor to operate.

Last week the UC Davis School of Law featured a full day conference “Confronting Child Labor in Global Agricultural Supply Chains.”  The conference featured a parade of impressive experts from a wide range of stakeholders, including Mars Co, Bonsucro, the International Labor Organization and the U.S. Department of Labor.  Each presented on the problem of child labor in the fields, and of need to create financial alternatives for rural youth, to educate communities about illegal practices, and to increase productivity in the fields.

But what was not discussed by speakers as a solution to child labor was to substantially raise the price farmers and workers are paid for their work.

Reflecting on the conference, speaker Professor Alfred Babo, an Associate Professor of Anthropology and Sociology at the University of Bouaké, commented.  … Read the rest

Raise the Bar, Hershey! Campaign Welcomes Hershey’s Announcement to Source 100% Certified Cocoa by 2020

[News from the Raise the Bar, Hershey! Campaign:]

Coalition urges Hershey and all chocolate companies to go 100% Fair Trade

The Raise the Bar, Hershey! Campaign (www.raisethebarhershey.org) welcomed today’s announcement from the Hershey Co. (HSY) that it will be certifying 100 percent of its cocoa by 2020 and urged the chocolate giant to go 100 percent Fair Trade with incremental benchmarks.  Hershey appeared to join its main rival Mars in announcing its target for certification with a 2020 deadline.  Many other smaller chocolate companies are already 100 percent certified, a number of them using Fair Trade certification, the most rigorous certification for identifying and remediating the Worst Forms of Child Labor. The Raise the Bar, Hershey! Campaign released the following joint statement:

“The Raise the Bar, Hershey! campaign is pleased that Hershey is announcing 100 percent certification for its cocoa by 2020. To truly address child labor, Hershey needs to make sure it is certifying all of its cocoa Fair Trade, the only certification that adequately addresses the Worst Forms of Child Labor. Hershey should certify and label one of its top-selling, brand name bars Fair Trade within the next year, and should certify and label all of its chocolates Fair Trade by 2020.  We urge Hershey to reveal how the company plans to get to 100% certification by disclosing the certifiers it will be working with as well as a timeline for converting specific product lines.

The Raise the Bar Hershey campaign, joined by over 150,000 consumers, union allies, religious groups, and over 40 food co-ops and natural grocers has been pressuring Hershey to address child labor for several years.  Just this week, Whole Foods Market (WFM) announced that it was removing Hershey’s Scharffen Berger line from its shelves until Hershey took steps to address child labor in its supply chain. The Raise the Bar, Hershey Campaign! and its allies will continue to encourage Hershey, and other chocolate companies, to improve labor practices on cocoa farms and plantations.”

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