by Shaelyn Saraceni
Since 2001, child slavery on cocoa plantations in Africa has been illegal. The major chocolate manufacturers (Nestle, Cargill, ADM, and Barry Callebaut) signed an agreement, called the Harkin-Engel Protocol, to help combat child slavery. Since then, has it gotten any better?
Chocolate is mass-consumed to the point where, especially on holidays, it is almost celebrated (or at least related to the thought of celebrating). “Trick or Treat!” or “Happy Anniversary, here is your favorite chocolate,” or “Happy Mother’s Day,” or “Happy Birthday,” or “Happy Valentine’s Day.” The list of reasons to buy chocolate is endless. It’s a sweet treat that many people consume, and it doesn’t even have to be a special occasion to delight in this tasty confection.
What many people do not know, is that the popular chocolate brands (that the majority of people consume) buy most of their cocoa from the Ivory Coast (also known as the Côte d’Ivoire) in Africa. In fact, the Ivory Coast produces about forty-two percent of all the world’s cocoa (Mistrati). In 2001, the International Labor Organization (ILO) had Nestle, Cargill, ADM, and Barry Callebaut sign an agreement called the Harkin-Engel Protocol, to help combat child slavery on cocoa plantations in the Ivory Coast. Sam Chanthavong, the program officer for multi regional and global programs at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), states the following:
Slave traders are trafficking boys ranging from the age of 12 to 16 from their home countries and are selling them to cocoa farmers in Côte d'Ivoire. They work on small farms across the country, harvesting the cocoa beans day and night, under inhumane conditions. Most of the boys come from neighboring Mali, where agents hang around bus stations looking for children that are alone or are begging for food. They lure the kids to travel to Cote d'Ivoire with them, and then the traffickers sell the children to farmers in need of cheap labor.
This was the problem in 2002. Unfortunately, even since 2002 the Harkin-Engel Protocol has been mostly overlooked. Anyone who asks the big manufacturers questions are completely disregarded, and companies continue to profit and get cases dropped with no repercussions for the slavery they are supporting.
In 2010, Idrissa Kanté, the General Secretary of the Driver’s Union in Sikasso, Mali, told journalists, “Trafficking of children has always existed. Always. The children are constantly leaving from the bus station. The [boys] who are going to the Ivory Coast are 12-14 years old. The girls are 11-12” (Mistrati). Kanté also showed the journalists a book where he kept track of the children he rescued in Mali, and stated, “In 2006, I discovered 132 children that were being trafficked. 97 were boys and 35 were girls. In 2007, there were 140; 99 boys and 41 girls” (Mistrati). To top it all off, the children are valued at around 230 euros (at least this is the price paid to smugglers) that includes their transportation to the plantations and indefinite use of them after they arrive (Mistrati).
In 2015, these problems had not changed. “The candy industry is a US 70-billion-dollar industry. It should have changed” (Riggs). Just last year, “A California federal judge dismissed two class actions against Nestle USA Inc. and Hershey Co. alleging that the companies should disclose on their packaging that their cocoa beans are harvested by child slaves. A similar class action against Mars Inc. was dismissed by another judge in February of this year” (Davis). The companies are getting these cases dismissed and pushed under the rug to avoid losing money, as they know is inevitable if they are forced to disclose that their cocoa is harvested and kept by child slaves.
Even today, sixteen years after the Harkin-Engel Protocol was signed, slavery is still prevalent. Money keeps the big corporations buying from slave run plantations because if they stopped, there would certainly be a decrease in child slave labor. The plantations cannot run without the funds from the large organizations who buy their cocoa, and these companies want cheap cocoa. Some of the companies and brands that buy from these cocoa plantations are listed below:
Hershey: Almond Joy, Brookside, Cadbury, Dagoba, Heath, Hershey’s, Kisses, Kit Kat, Mounds, Mr. Goodbar, Reese’s, Rolo, Whoppers, and York
Mars: 3 Musketeers, Bounty, Dove, Galaxy, Mars, Milky Way, M&M’s, Snickers, and Twix
Nestle: Aero, Butterfinger, Crunch, and Nestle
“‘The beatings were a part of my life,’ Aly Diabate, a freed slave, told reporters. ‘Anytime they loaded you with bags (of cocoa beans) and you fell while carrying them, nobody helped you. Instead they beat you and beat you until you picked it up again’” (Wellman). Look for the following brands as alternatives and slave free cocoa options:
All of the evidence in this article can be researched and confirmed by looking at the sources below. In addition, there is a documentary below called The Dark Side of Chocolate where actual interviews and footage of the child slavery from back in 2010 can be watched by clicking the link to youtube.
CDDRL. "Liberation Technology in Authoritarian Regimes." (n.d.): 1-11. Stanford, 11 Oct. 2010. Web. 21 Feb. 2017.
Chanthavong, Samlanchith. “Chocolate and Slavery: Child Labor in Cote d'Ivoire.”Chocolate and Slavery, Jan. 2002, http://www1.american.edu/ted/chocolate-slave.htm.
Davis, Christina. “Nestle, Hershey Class Action Child Slavery Lawsuit Dismissed.” Top Class Actions, 31 Mar. 2016, http://topclassactions.com/lawsuit-settlements/lawsuit-news/331645-nestle-hershey-class-action-child-slavery-lawsuit-dismissed/.
Dochat, Tom. "Cocoa Suppliers Won't Be Named." Patriot-News, The (Harrisburg, PA) (2006): Newspaper Source Plus. Web. 9 Feb. 2017.
Hershey. “Products.” Corporate, Hershey, www.thehersheycompany.com/en_us/products.html?i=1%3Bq&ViewAll=true. Accessed 16 Feb. 2017.
ILO. “Africa: Child Labor in Cocoa Fields/ Harkin-Engel Protocol.” United Nations, 8 July 2011, www.ilo.org/washington/areas/elimination-of-the-worst-forms-of-child-labor/WCMS_159486/lang--en/index.htm.
Mars. “OUR BRANDS.” Mars, Incorporated, www.mars.com/global/brands. Accessed 16 Feb. 2017.
Mistrati, Miki, and U. Roberto Romano, editors. Documentary. “The Dark Side Of Chocolate.” YouTube, YouTube, 21 Jan. 2012, www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Vfbv6hNeng.
Nestle. “Chocolate & Confectionery Brands .” Nestle.com, www.nestle.com/brands/chocolateconfectionery. Accessed 16 Feb. 2017.
Riggs, Ayn. “Slave Free Chocolate.” Slave Free Chocolate, www.slavefreechocolate.org/.
Uychiat, Abbie. “Bad Chocolate: Hershey's, Nestle, and Mars Inc. Are Facing Child Slavery Accusations.” Food World News, 6 Oct. 2015, www.foodworldnews.com/articles/42109/20151006/shocking-child-slavery-claims-regarding-major-chocolate-companies-the-hershey-company-nestle-and-mars-inc.htm. Accessed 23 Feb. 2017.
Wellman, Nathan. “Beware of These 9 Popular Chocolate Brands That Exploit Child Slaves.” U.S. Uncut, 6 Feb. 2016, usuncut.com/news/beware-of-these-10-popular-chocolate-brands-that-exploit-child-slaves/.
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