Each year we consume about 7 million tons of chocolate worldwide. It comes in a variety of prices and origins from small artisanal chocolate makers to international giants. At confectionary trade fares the exhibitors not only show off their products but also teach children about where chocolate comes from. Environmental organizations are also present to tell children about the darker side of chocolate.
It is a well-known fact in the chocolate industry that this sweet treat comes as the result of child labor, slavery, deforestation, and inhumane working conditions. Many companies insist that they are doing what they can to make sure that children and the environment are protected, however.
The West African country of Ivory Coast produces 40% of the world’s entire cocoa supply. The trees that it comes from, grows on small remote farms mostly left to their own devices. The harvest goes through a long line of traders and manufacturers before it ends up on the supermarket shelf.
Although child labor is illegal in Ivory Coast, that hasn’t stopped cocoa plantations from employing children. Their job is to pick cacao pods and cut them open with sharp machetes all day. This takes a lot of care and precision because the shells are hard, but it’s the only way to extract the precious bean.
About a third of the workers are children, extremely poor immigrants from Burkina Faso. Their parents sell them to traffickers for roughly 300 Euros or $362. For many of them, the forest becomes their home for years where they work only for food until the boss decides to pay them with a small plot of land.
In order to increase the number of cacao plants, the forest is sprayed with a potent weed killer, and the trees are burned down.
Over the last decade, more cocoa producers have promised to save the forest and make sure children get an education. Are these true or mere empty promises?