Who doesn’t appreciate the taste of chocolate? Europeans consume more than half of the cacao produced in the world, which equals approximately three million, three hundred thousand pounds of cacao per year. That is around fifteen milliard tablets of chocolate.
On the other side of the planet, Americans consume 2.8 billion pounds of chocolate each year with an average of eleven pounds per person. North American countries are undoubtedly representing the largest share, followed by the continental Europe.
The chocolate industry has experienced a massive growth over the last decade.
A raise has considerably driven the increase in production in the population awareness of the health benefits associated with certain categories of chocolate, and by a more significant popularity and consumption in Asian Pacific countries.
Our love for chocolate and the pleasure we feel when tasting hides unacceptable realities, especially for children of the second largest continent in the World−Africa.
Western African countries, specifically Ghana and the Ivory Coast, supply more than 70% of the world’s cacao bean, commonly known as cocoa.
The harvested bean ends up in the hands of the chocolate manufactures, including the internationally known and largest ones in the world.
Humanitarian and international organizations have long suspected to generate benefits from human trafficking, child labor, and slavery; and as soon as journalists and other organizations have exposed the truth, the industry of chocolate increased its discretion.
The secretive aspect of chocolate companies made it more complicated for the media to access the farms where human rights transgressions occurs and diffuse the wrongdoings to the international community.
According to a joint UNICEF-World Bank report, almost half of all children in sub-Saharan Africa are living in extreme poverty. Most of the children of Western Africa start working at a young age to help support their families, which is how these children end up in cocoa farms.
Their own relatives sell some of the children to traffickers or farm owners, while traffickers convince others that the position pays good money.
Most of the children abducted that are forced to work in chocolate farms come from the poorest nations in the world − Burkina Faso and Mali. These children are exposed to a variety of dangers.
The long and exhausting hours of work are considered a direct threat to the mental and physical health of the child. Furthermore, the use of dangerous materials such as chainsaws and machetes to clear the forest and cut the bean pods is a direct violation to international labor laws.
The child workers are not excluded from carrying heavy sacks that can weigh more than a hundred pounds. In addition to all of the highlighted unlawful conditions, the abducted kids are exposed to different types of violence and abuse.
In recent years, Candy companies admitted to the exploitation of human beings as a commodity and were condemned. However, despite the signature of the manufactures of a contract forbidding any form of human rights violation, the practices are still commonplace.
The purpose of this article is not to make chocolate lovers feel bad about their consumption, but to raise awareness on the 179 million children exploited by hazardous work.
Displaced children lack the bare necessities from freedom to childhood to schooling to health. It is easy to walk down the aisle and pick any bar of chocolate, but it would not take much effort to take a moment to choose a slave free candy.
Farms known for the production of organic food are subject to an independent tracking and monitoring system that meticulously records labor practices. Therefore, organic chocolate can also be considered as slave free.
Child labor is not only dominant in the cocoa industry, but also in many other industries all around the globe. Agriculture is one of the worst and most common form of child labor.
In Colombia, Nicaragua, or Tanzania, coffee plantations engage kids to pick beans. In Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, boys and girls below the age of puberty are forcefully employed in the cotton sector.
Perhaps one of the most oppressive conditions would be those of children working in Cambodia and Bangladesh in the garment industry.
I strongly condemn these unlawful and inhuman practices on innocent and naïve boys and girls. There has been a steady decrease in the rates of child labor, but the progress remains slower compared to the fast growing industries.