Chocolate. The word itself is tantalizing and makes our mouths water. It is an ingredient that we not only use in a plethora of foods, but is also simply an enjoyable snack. Unfortunately, the origins of our chocolate are, more often than not, much more bitter than we would expect. Major chocolate corporations, primarily Nestle, Hershey’s, and Mars, purchase the cocoa they use in their chocolate from plantations in West Africa that use child slave labor. This way, these corporations are able to buy the cocoa cheaply and maximize their profits. This problem was brought to the chocolate companies’ attention in 2001, however, almost nothing has been done to fix it.

Children are trafficked from various countries in West Africa, such as Mali and Ghana, and forced to work on cocoa plantations in West Africa, mainly the Ivory Coast. These children, many of which are younger than 12, are treated inhumanly. They are often beaten during the day and then locked up at night to prevent escape. Brian Woods and Kate Blewett are two filmmakers who created a documentary about this issue. They interviewed a child named Drissa, who had been a slave on one of the plantations. Woods claimed, “There wasn’t an inch of his body which wasn’t scarred.” But physical scars aren’t the only type acquired while the children are enslaved. Free the Slaves, an organization dedicated to ending slavery worldwide, published a report on the mental health of children from the Ivory Coast, some of whom were recovered from the cocoa industry. The effects observed included perturbation, depression, and aggressiveness.

The companies themselves are doing very little to stop child slavery; there is no enforcement used on the plantation owners to prevent this practice. As long as these companies continue to benefit from having child slavery in their supply chain, there is no business motive for change. Some people, however, have chosen to boycott the companies, opting to purchase Fair Trade Certified chocolate instead. By purchasing Fair Trade chocolate, consumers can insure that they are not financing the continuation of child slavery. If we stop supporting these corporations, they will change their unethical practices.

Fair trade chocolate providers include: Equal Exchange, Divine Cocoa, Dagoba, Coco-zen, Green and Blacks, and Newman's Own Organics. More companies can be found here (http://fairtradeusa.org/products-partners/cocoa).

Fair Trade chocolate is sold at Whole Foods, Trader Joes, Ten Thousand Villages, and some can be bought online (http://shop.equalexchange.com/category.aspx?categoryID=21 and http://shop.equalexchange.com/category.aspx?categoryID=21).

Sources:

"BBC News | AFRICA | Mali's Children in Chocolate Slavery." BBC News - Home. 12 Apr. 2001. Web. 29 Oct. 2011. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/1272522.stm>.

The Dark Side of Chocolate: Child Trafficking and Illegal Child Labor in the Cocoa Industry. Dir. Roberto U. Romano and Miki Mistrati. Danish Broadcasting Corporation, 2010. DVD.

Hyde, Judith, Kevin Bales, and Marc Levin. "Physical And Mental Health Aspects Of Rehabilitating Children Freed From Slavery." Free The Slaves. 2006. Web. 29 Oct. 2011. <http://www.freetheslaves.net/Document.Doc?id=36>.

Korfhage, Andrew. "Big Chocolate's Child Slavery Addiction | Common Dreams." Home | Common Dreams. 22 Oct. 2010. Web. 29 Oct. 2011. <http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/10/22-1>.

Robbins, John. "Is There Slavery In Your Chocolate?" John Robbins Official Site. 19 Apr. 2010. Web. 29 Oct. 2011. <http://www.johnrobbins.info/blog/is-there-slavery-in-your-chocolate/>.