The chocolate field has continued to grow over the years to become one of the most prominent figures and faces in the food industry. Thus, as the demand for cheap chocolate escalated, the lives of farmworkers degraded from bad to worse. Though the chocolate industry makes almost $83.2 billion worldwide, farmers who work in the coca fields in the ivory coast are barely living on their 2$ per-day wages. Moreover, more than 70% of the world’s cocoa is a product of Ivory Coast’s farms.
One of the worst faces of child labor
Truth is most of the workers in the coca field are mere children. Since many of their families live below poverty, children have to help their parents in order to survive. Thus, traffickers lure children with false promises of good pay. Others are “sold” or “rented” by their own relatives to either traffickers or farm owners.
On the other hand, a huge proportion of children working in the cacao fields are kidnapped from their own villages. Traffickers lure them from the neighboring countries of the ivory coast such as Mali, Niger, Nigeria, and Burkina Faso.
Furthermore, though most of the children working in the farms are between the ages of 12 and 16, reports show kids as young as 5 working in the fields. 40% of the child labor population is made up of girls while the rest are boys. Many kids who work in this industry end up staying in the cocoa farms through adulthood; never having the chance of leaving.
The inhuman working conditions
They work hard in cruel conditions from six every morning till the evening. Moreover, their jobs may vary from using chainsaws as a means to clear the forests, to climbing up the cocoa trees to cut the bean pods. Furthermore, they use large, heavy, dangerous knives as tools to do their tasks. Such sharp and harmful objects are not only a violation of international labor laws, but they also disrespect the UN convention concerned with eliminating the worst forms of child labor. They also have to carry the product, which is usually twice and trice their weight, once they finish harvesting it. If they don’t comply with the orders, they end up beaten horribly.
Kids aren’t only suffering the cruel working conditions and the overall physical and psychological abuse, but they are also getting themselves hurt while opening the cocoa beans with a machete. Reports prove that almost all the children bear painful scars on their hands, arms, legs, or shoulders from them. Furthermore, these children are also exposed to unattended agricultural chemicals in Western Africa. Thus, they are living in a very vulnerable state.
To add salt to the wound, the kids are usually malnourished or underfed. Farmers mostly only provide them with the cheapest forms of food such as corn paste and bananas. They also sleep in unsanitary places which leave them most vulnerable in the face of any disease. This, of course, got worse during the pandemic.
Major companies role
Many international companies endorse these unethical and inhuman means. They profit millions of the pain and sweat of children. Moreover, even though they pledged to change their ways, many broke their promise.
Such companies include but are not limited to Mars Inc, Nestlé, The Hershey Company, and Cadbury Schweppes Plc.
On the other hand, there are other ethical or semi ethical companies that don’t rely on child labor. though, the final product’s price is usually higher than other chocolate companies. Alter Eco, Divine, Endangered Species, and Theo are examples of such companies.
Moreover, the ivory coast in Africa isn’t the only place that relies on child laborers for farming cacao. Cameroon, Benin, Nigeria, and Togo are guilty of these offenses as well.
Ways to help
Though many are battling in this war to end such practices on the front lines, we can also help. Spreading awareness on the dark side of this sweet industry is our responsibility. Moreover, through buying from ethical companies instead of the money-hungry and questionable others, we play a very small but significant part in making the world somehow a better place. thus, we need to step up and call out these injustices.
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