Chocolate Slaves… confronting issues of social injustice

While many people enjoy the sweet taste of chocolate, they don’t realize that at the same time there are children being forced to harvest cocoa beans in harsh, brutal, and not so sweet conditions. Ivory Coast is the world’s largest producer of cocoa beans, so there are many cocoa-producing companies in this location.  In many cases, cocoa companies have slaves in their harvesting line, and the conditions are atrocious. Recently, slavery is becoming more widespread in the cocoa harvesting industry. Companies that previously had legitimate workers now have slaves incorporated into the harvesting service. In many cases, this happens only to save a little money. Not all hope for the children’s lives is lost though, for many people and organizations are trying to make a difference.

It is shocking and unjust how the slavery has occurred and continues to occur. In many cases, children as young as twelve who are looking for jobs are told that they will be paid to work on cocoa farms, and be provided decent conditions.

According to reports, children are trafficked as further than three hundred miles away to be placed on a cocoa bean harvesting farm. The trafficked children are told to work harvesting cocoa beans, receiving no pay or education. The slaves are told that if they do not comply, they will be beaten. Unfortunately, according to Samlanchith Chanthavong, author of “Chocolate and Slavery: Child Labor in Cote d’Ivoire,“ the slave’s owners are not bluffing, and when a slave is caught, he is usually beaten, tied up, and occasionally locked in a hut. Sometimes there are fences and armed guards that keep the slaves from escaping. Depending on the farm, there may be no security, and slaves are able to come and go if they choose to do so. Unfortunately, in these cases, the slaves do not leave because they are far from home, without any money, and filled with fear. According toSamlanchith Chanthavong, the only way for slaves to get out alive is if Ivorian authorities find the slave farm, prove there is slavery, and then work together with local and national and global authorities to get the slaves released. (Chanthavong) The children have been taken and kept on the farms through deception as well as fear, and are continuing to be taken through these unjust ways.

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New Evidence of Child Trafficking & Forced Labor in Cocoa Industry
by Tim Newman · October 01, 2010

Tasked with providing Congress with an annual, impartial assessment of chocolate industry efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor from the cocoa industry, the Payson Center for International Development at Tulane University released its fourth annual report. The report is currently the best place to learn about ongoing abuses on cocoa farms and to find an an impartial assessment of the efforts companies have made to improve conditions. The new report provides upsetting evidence that little progress has been made and backs up the arguments frequently made by advocates.

The new report identifies the ongoing exploitation of labor rights in the cocoa sector including the worst forms of child labor, forced labor and trafficking. New research related to the trafficking of young workers from Burkina Faso and Mali found that most of them moved to Cote d’Ivoire without their natural parents or guardians. Virtually all respondents in the survey of migrant workers experienced the worst forms of child labor including: verbal, physical and sexual harassment; restrictions of their freedom of movement; performing hazardous work, including land clearing and burning; carrying heavy loads; spraying pesticides; and using machetes, among other dangerous activities. At the same time, border police and guards in Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana receive almost no training in dealing with child trafficking and are unaware of policies and intervention strategies related to dealing with child trafficking. Unsurprisingly, only a miniscule percentage of respondents who had experienced trafficking and the worst forms of child labor benefited from any sort of intervention or assistance.  >> View Full Story