Chocolate is one of the most delicious things on the face of this planet. You can buy it in any form, for any purpose, and in any flavor. It’s the solution to a bad day and can calm a lover’s feelings faster than a blinking eye. We may know all these things about chocolate’s seemingly magic powers, but we have nearly no idea where it comes from and how those workers live their lives.
Most of the cocoa used to make chocolate comes from Asia, Western Africa and Latin America. More than half of the world’s supply of cocoa comes from Western Africa—more specifically the Ivory Coast and Ghana. Cocoa is these country’s main export, and so it’s their main source of money coming into the country. Unfortunately, the methods they use to harvest and grow the cocoa are leaving people, specifically children, abused, and misused.
Cocoa farmers make less than two US dollars a day, which firmly places them under the poverty line. In order to make sure they’re producing enough cocoa to continue living, they’re desperate enough to revert to using children as labor. It’s cheap, easy, and allows the farmers to make more money without spending as much on workers. Often times, child traffickers lie to children who need to work to keep themselves and their families alive. They’re told that the job pays well, and before they know it, are stuck working a harsh and dangerous job. Other children are sold by their families to farms, and thus act almost as slaves to the farmers.
On top of unfair employment, the work is extremely dangerous. These children need to hold the pods in one hand and hack at it with a machete until it opens. A lot of children get hurt, and many have permanent injuries because of this, including missing fingers, cut backs, or even death. Beyond this, children often don’t see their families for a long amount of time—if every allowed—and they are more often than not, denied an education.
While this glimpse into the world of chocolate production seems bleak and horrible, there are still benefits to this system, and more room to grow into something benefitial to the communities in which it serves. Anything that brings money to a group of hardworking people is important. The key now is to make sure that even though the money is coming in, the methods used to get that money are ethical and kind. There are three basic ways to turn this negative situation into a powerful movement:
- Do your research – This is extremely important. Look online, read articles, ask around. Find out how companies are getting their cocoa and find out what kind of conditions those kids are working in. If you don’t like it, then you’ve got the power to voice your opinion. Knowledge is power—find companies that get their cocoa the right way.
- Use your money – Once you’ve got a list of good and bad companies, put your money where your mouth is and only support those that don’t use child labor and slavery to get their products. You may feel like one drop in the bucket, but drops add up, and so do your dollars.
- Educate others – We are all voices shouting into the darkness, but when we band together, our voices are strong and loud. Make your friends and family aware of what’s going on in Western Africa regarding cocoa. Write articles, and contact local organizations. The more people involved, the better. Once the movement starts up, it’s hard to get it to stop. Eventually, more and more people will hear and care about this situation, and companies will be forced to listen.
This article was kindly provided by Sent With A Loving Kiss who make personalized chocolate gifts using ethically sourced chocolate.