Christina Davenport, Stuart AM Period
We have all passed that candy bar section in the grocery store and have been suddenly compelled to buy a chocolate bar. But have you ever stopped to think on how that delicious Heresy’s bar was made? In recent years, reporters have had this same exact question and have dug deeper into the chocolate industry only to find a harsh reality that is a part of this process.
Chocolate is a product of the cacao bean, more commonly referred to as cocoa, which primarily grows in the tropical climates of Western Africa, Asia and Latin America. The Western countries in Africa, such as Ghana and the Ivory Coast, supply more than 70% of the world’s cocoa. As the chocolate industry grows, so does the demand for cheap cocoa. The average cocoa farmer earns less than $2 a day. Which is an income below the poverty line. Because of this, farmers often resort to the use of child labor. Traffickers promise the children a well-paying job and since most are surrounded by immense poverty and need to start working at a young age to help support their families, the offer sounds too good to pass up. Little do they know the harsh working environment and lack of any provisions for education.
On average, the children laboring the cocoa farms are between the ages of 12 and 16 and some are as young as 5. 60% of the children are males and some, if lucky, stay as little as a few months, while others end up working on the farms through their adulthood.
A child’s typical workday beings around 6 in the morning and ends in the late evening. “Some of the children’s job is to clear the forest using chainsaws, while others climb trees to cut cocoa bean pods using a machete.” These standard tools of working, violates the international labor laws. Once the bean pods are cut from the tree, children pack the pods into large heavy sacks that could weigh more than 100 pounds. If this process is not completed quickly enough, then they have the chance of getting severally beaten. Every strike the child makes with the machete, has the potential to cut the child’s flesh. The majority of children that work on these farms have a numerous amount of scaring on their hands, arms, legs and shoulders.
In addition to this dangerous machinery, children are also exposed to chemicals on the farms in West Africa. Tropical regions such as Ghana and the Ivory Coast, which are 2 main suppliers of coco beans, “consistently deal with prolific insect populations” and choose the children, as young as 10, to spray the pods with a large amount of chemicals without wearing any protective clothing.
The farm owners usually “provide” the children with the cheapest foods available and make the children sleep on small wooden planks in tiny windowless buildings with no access to clean water or sanitary bathrooms. “Around 10% of the children in Ghana and 40% of the children in the Ivory Coast do not attend school.” Not providing for these kids, have many short-term and long-term effects. Without an education, the children on the cocoa farms have little to no chance of ever breaking the cycle of poverty.
So before you buy a chocolate bar, think. You or someone in your family could have suffered to make it. The question is, “Would you still buy it?”
Aristotle. The Nicomachean ethics. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999.
“Big Chocolate Child Labor.” Fortune. March 1, 2016. Accessed June 26, 2017. http://fortune.com/big-chocolate-child-labor/.