Chocolate, for most of us, is a pleasure when it melts on our tongue and slides down into our stomach. If you take one piece of chocolate out, you will be standing in front of the fridge and getting another piece in the next four minutes.
Smooth. Yummy. Unforgettable.
However, it is also a guilty pleasure if we know the processes of making a piece of sweet, honeyed chocolate. They all start at collecting cocoa beans from the tree.
For thousands of children who work in the cocoa fields, mainly in West Africa, chocolate is a source of not pleasure but hard, sometimes hazardous work. According to the 2018 Cocoa Barometer, about 2.1 million under-age workers are exploited to collect cocoa beans in West Africa, and almost every one of them was left unpaid for most of their wages.
So why was this problem unsolved?
The answer is simple: poverty.
The global prices of cocoa beans dropped drastically over the last few years, which damaged the incomes of already poor farmers even more.
To put this into perspective, here are some stats: 0.78 and 2.51.
According to Fairtrade International 2018, the first number is the average daily income of cocoa farmers, and the second number is the required daily income for them to live, both in dollars.
How could the farmers hire workers when they cannot yet sustain their lives? That being the case, costless, relatively productive child workers seem to be the perfect solution to this problem.
Moreover, the condition becomes extreme in some cocoa farms where child laboring is evolving into child slavery. According to a documentary reported in Jstor, children as young as six years old were forced to work 80-100 hours per week without pay, suffered from malnutrition, and were subject to beatings and other abuses.
What is worse is that many of these labored children were trafficked from neighboring countries to where they were sold into forced labor today, which means they were not only thrown into such a miserable, bitter life but also lost their opportunity to meet their parents forever.
I now believe that you chocolate lovers recognize the depleting vulnerable beings behind every piece of chocolate you put into your mouth, and you must do because they are made from blood and tears of those children, some might be the same age as you, who were forced into a completely different life.
I would blame the international cocoa industry for keeping the prices too low and providing inadequate incomes for cocoa farm holders, but more importantly, we should all buy fewer chocolates to boycott the production of it and to prevent more children falling into this forlorn fate of life.
The impact of our action might be small in the short future, but it expresses a signal that child trafficking and laboring in cocoa farms must be investigated and strictly terminated by countries’ government. As more and more people start to boycott the consumption of chocolate, this action will eventually damage the incomes of those labor holders, and we will not stop this practice until the occurrence of child labor free in the cocoa farms.
It’s easy to make someone painful, but hard to save someone from pain. Nonetheless, I believe a thousand of weakest voice can become louder than the sound of a tsunami. It is not a task that I can accomplish by myself. I need your help and actions to save the future of thousands of children, who are currently, or will be, suffering the break of their family and the slavery-like working condition.
Chocolate is already eliminated from my diet. What about you?
Products Made By Child Labor, June 10th, 2016, https://www.nst.com.my/news/2016/06/152739/act-now-stop-child-labour
Balch, Oliver, The True Cost of Chocolate Production, Recounter, June 20th, 2018,https://www.raconteur.net/business-innovation/child-labour-cocoa-production ia-find-child-labour-in-supply-chains-su.html
Chocolate Class, Portray of Women, Mar 16th, 2019,https://chocolateclass.wordpress.com/tag/portrayal-of-women/
Elliot J. Schrage, Anthony P. Ewing, The Cocoa Industry and Child Labour, The Journal of Corporate Citizenship, 2005, https://www.jstor.org/stable/jcorpciti.18.99?read-now=1&seq=2#page_scan_tab_contents