Chocolate Slavery

Chocolate and child slavery

There is a surprising association between chocolate and child labor in the Cote d'Ivoire. Young boys whose ages range from 12 to 16 have been sold into slave labor and are forced to work in cocoa farms in order to harvest the beans, from which chocolate is made, under inhumane conditions and extreme abuse. This West African country is the leading exporter of cocoa beans to the world market. Thus, the existence of slave labor is relevant to the entire international economic community. Through trade relations, many actors are inevitably implicated in this problem, whether it is the Ivorian government, the farmers, the American or European chocolate manufacturers, or consumers who unknowingly buy chocolate. Discussions have arisen regarding how to respond to the problem. Issues mentioned include causes of slave labor relating to the economic system and to the country's dependence on an unstable export crop. There are also debates concerning the appropriate response from the chocolate industry, government officials, and consumers concerning whether there should be boycotting, establishment of government legislation to put "made by slaves" labels on products, or whether some type of international cooperation is needed to ensure improved working conditions. The complexity of the problem makes finding an effective solution a challenging task.

Satisfying our sweet demands
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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 Cote 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 (Raghavan, "Lured...").

The horrendous conditions under which children must toil on the cocoa farms of the Cote d'Ivoire are even more jarring when the facts are juxtaposed with the idea that much of this cocoa will ultimately end up producing something that most people associate with happiness and pleasure: chocolate. The connection serves to illustrate that the existence of misery in one part of the world and joy in another part are no longer divorced as nations are connected together in a globalized web of trade. Thus, the pleasure that people from various nations around the world are deriving from these chocolate confections could possibly be at the expense of child slaves in Africa. The problem of child slavery then is not simply a faraway abstraction with no immediate implications for anybody else except those who are directly affected, but rather it is an issue that everybody around the world should be concerned about and demand action to eradicate.

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Artwork by Felix von der Weppen
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