Chocolate companies linked to child slavery and human trafficking
By Natasha Christian
America’s love for chocolate has no borders. From dipping everything imaginable into chocolate fondue to the classic story of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, the candy has melted its way into American hearts.
Major chocolate corporations feed the hunger America has for chocolate. However, a tragic trend is slowly dominating headlines about companies that practice unethical production, using human trafficking and child slavery on the cocoa farms.
The businesses receive cocoa from fields in West Africa, which use improper child labor and illegal human trade to harvest and pick cocoa beans to supply the ingredient on a mass scale for American companies.
Nell Green works as an Internationals Ministry Network coordinator for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. She represented the organization during UMHB’s Mission Emphasis Week last month and gave a brief explanation of the issue during a human trafficking seminar.
She said, “Organizations … have been identified, have been chastised, have been fined. … Yet they still refuse to correct their act.”
For senior psychology major Amanda Gigante, who attended Green’s seminar, the irony of the situation is appalling.
She said, “America represents freedom…. And doing these things, such as having child labor, I believe that’s just against what America is. It’s wrong.”
Chocolate companies have known about the child slavery for a decade. However, they are not taking legal action to protect the children.
A national protest has ensued. A petition to legalize Fair Trade 2012, an act to end child slavery specifically on cocoa plants, is gaining momentum across the nation. So is a boycott of chocolate businesses that use slave labor.
Countries in West Africa, like Ghana and the Ivory Coast, predominately profit from cocoa plants and supply the beans globally. They are also well known for adult and child slavery.
Due to so many cocoa farms, owners use “quick and able bodies,” Green said, to plant and also pick the beans. The conditions the children face are horrific, and the abusive system takes a toll physically and emotionally on the workers.
Green said, “Those who own the fields and those who are buying from these fields know that these families are in a vulnerable situation. … So the children are forced to work extremely long hours … and they can abuse the giving of salaries.”
Because Africa has some of the poorest nations, child labor is not only an option but a necessity for many families.
Green said, “You have to understand the extreme poverty of the Third World country. There is no description.”
To prevent forced labor and provide a legitimate wage for child workers on the farms, she believes American consumers need to accept an increase in prices.
“The reality is we have to pay more for chocolate, and fair trade chocolate is not cheap,” Green said.
Sophomore graphic design major Diana Fadal agrees with the movement and provides additional options as well.
Fadal said, “Support fair trade … pray and spread awareness.”