“Slavery is the theft of life from Children working in Chocolate Companies”
The team Norvergence LLC has decided to shift your focus from delicious chocolate to the conditions of millions of children who work on cocoa farms across the globe especially in Africa. In a documentary made by BBC, filmmakers interviewed children in Ivory Coast who said that they are forced to work in the cocoa farms without any pay.
One of the children said: “People are enjoying something (chocolate) that I suffered to make. They are eating my Flesh”
Western Africa Witnessed a Worst Form of Child Labor
Around 70 percent of the world’s cocoa beans come from the western part of Africa and many of the countries in that region earn a huge amount of revenue from it. For instance, 60 percent of Ivory Coast’s revenue comes from the cocoa beans. People are surrounded by intense poverty in Western Africa and children end up working in cocoa farms instead of studying at school.
Children are sold to traffickers by their family members or some of them get abducted from their homes especially in countries such as Mali and Burkina Faso.
Abby Mills who is the campaign director of the International Labor Rights Forum said: “Every research study ever conducted in [Western Africa] shows that there is human trafficking going on, particularly in the Ivory Coast.”
The farmers in the Ivory Coast have admitted about child slavery and how children are exploited. According to The Washington Post, one of the farmers said: “I admit that it is a kind of slavery. … But they bring them here to work, and it’s the boss who takes the money.”
Multinational Chocolate Makes Dependency on Western Africa
No one can deny the fact that many chocolate companies are heavily dependent on the western part of Africa. The two countries that produced 50–60 percent of the world’s cocoa are Ghana and Ivory Coast. Also, the combined GDP of these countries is around $ 73 billion and is very less than Nestle’s 100 billion turnovers (in sales).
Slave-Free Chocolate is only possible by Ending Poverty
The vice-president of the World Cocoa Foundation, Timothy McCoy has talked about how poverty is the main cause of child labor in the chocolate industry. “Until we address the poverty issue and raise farmers out of poverty, then this will continue to be a problem. If there was an easy solution to this, then we would have solved it a long time ago and moved on.”
International Cocoa Initiative (ICI)
The ICI was set up in 2012 in an order to eliminate child labor from the chocolate industry. It’s executive director, Nick Wetherill has explained how ICI works: “These systems, when worked into companies’ supply chains, allow them to identify child labor and, having identified it, to address it.”
Currently, ICI is working with farmer unions, communities, civil societies, chocolate industry, and various governments so that the lives of children involved in Cocoa production can be improved.
Plans of Big Brands in Combating Child Labor
Following is the list of big brands that have made some plans and are following it to combat child labor in chocolate production.
In 2015, Mondelez announced a $400 million investment to increase its Cocoa life-program that is specifically designed for supporting and giving training to farmers. The company has partnered with Barry Callebaut to reach around 200,000 farmers in Ivory Coast and other countries by the end of 2022.
Through its Cocoa Plan (launched in 2009), Nestle has purchased 30 percent of its cocoa in 2015 and 83 percent of the supply came from certified vendors.
Norvergence has found that Ferrero has taken a pledge that it will source 100 percent of cocoa from certified farmers by the end of 2020.
According to their Cocoa plan, the company got 50 percent of cocoa from its certified vendors and has taken a pledge to raise this number to 100 percent by 2020.
The Dutch confectionery company has claimed that they manufacture 100 percent slave-free chocolate. Pascal van Ham, head of marketing said: “We set up the company 15 years ago to create a different business model and a different way of co-operating with farmers that are based on equality and not maximizing profits. And if we can do it, then the question is why can’t others follow the same example?”
Norvergence believes that all of us i.e. consumers play an important role in this matter. Before consuming chocolate, we should find out how that particular company is getting its cocoa and from where. Children are suffering because of our chocolate craving (indirectly) and we can’t let them suffer.