Search This Blog

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Day 178

Meet the chocolate slaves.

Thoughts: People around the world share a love of chocolate, one of the most delicious and pleasurable foods on earth. Thousands of children in West Africa are forced to labor in the production of cocoa, chocolate’s primary ingredient. Want to support child trafficking and slavery? Imagine your children didn't come home from school one day and instead were forced to slavery to work in cocao fields. Or if you don't have children imagine yourself as a child, robbed of your childhood and having to go start work in fields from 5 years old. Perhaps the children enjoy working there? Do we have ethical standards?

I had no idea about cocao child trafficking until yesterday thanks to my friend Elisha Yarington who posted a comment on my facebook wall saying "It breaks my heart Liana". Even more people don’t know that the chocolate industry promised in 2001 to end the trafficking of children onto cocoa farms by July 1st 2008. It is 2010 and it is still going on...

Kidnap attempt (from BBC)

A young boy called Victor trafficked from Mali said:
“Tell your children that they have bought something that I suffered to make. When they are eating chocolate they are eating my flesh."

"I was playing football," said Karim Sadibe. "This man said I should come with him to the Ivory Coast. He would sign me up for the national team and I would get lots of money and that I shouldn't tell my parents."

Karim went, but luckily was intercepted by police. The man who was to have sold him into slavery - probably for about £50 - melted away.

"I don't know how one human being can treat another in the way they treated me" - Former child slave

Karim was sent back to Mali, to a centre run by Save the Children Fund, Canada. All of that had taken place within the past week.

Next door was 20-year-old Moussa Doumbia. He slipped off a freshly pressed pink shirt to reveal welted scars where he had been made to carry sacks of cocoa until he managed to escape two years ago.

At night he slept on the floor in a locked room. He was given food once a day. If he complained, he was beaten. The boys who tried to escape had their feet cut with razors.

"I don't know how one human being can treat another in the way they treated me," he whispered.

Child labour

That's the challenge from Stop The Traffik, an international movement that has stepped up its pressure on confectionary giant Nestle and Cadbury to ensure it uses cocoa that's free from child trafficking and forced child labor.

Recently, Stop The Traffik coordinated a series of phone calls to Nestle's headquarters in Croydon, south of London, to demand answers about its links to the Ivory Coast, which produces more than 35 percent of the world's cocoa crop.

In 2001 reports confirmed widespread child labor on cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast, and thousands of children being trafficked from nearby Mali, Burkina Faso and Togo.

The conditions these children were working in were characterized as dangerous and they were forced to work long hours.

More recently an Interpol-led operation in July resulted in the rescue of more than 50 child workers from cocoa and palm plantations in the Ivory Coast.

The operation was the first of its kind to target child trafficking in West Africa. Eight people were arrested in connection with the illegal recruitment of children.

Since Stop The Traffik was founded by Chalke in 2006, it has encouraged people to refrain from buying chocolate that cannot guarantee to have been made without trafficked children.

Stop The Traffik is hoping its pressure will end in a similar result to previous campaigns.

Two years ago, representatives, including Chalke, met Cadbury executives and were told that it was "naive and unrealistic" to expect the company to seriously adopt fair trade standards.

"Nestle is one of the biggest global players in the chocolate industry with global sales of approximately $11.4 billion for chocolate, confectionery and biscuits. As a company that sources cocoa from Ivory Coast, it could have a major influence on the ethics of sourcing from that country."

She added, "Unless industry can assure us that our chocolate is not made from beans picked by trafficked children, then no real progress has been made. This should be the standard by which they are judged."

"We agree with Stop The Traffik," she told The Baptist Times.

"But with two million farms in the Ivory Coast nobody can guarantee that their cocoa will be free from these unacceptable practices."

"We want to see it changed and are working towards that, but it takes time."

So in 2002 Humphrey Hawksley set off to find out what was going on. A drive of hundreds of miles from the parched bush land of Mali to the lush jungle of Ivory Coast.

"I had thought that finding child labour would be difficult. I had talked to contacts, gathered phone numbers, spent hours of preparation. In the end, I needed none of it.

After a 30 minutes' drive from our hotel in the city of Yammousoukrou along the main road to Sinfra, we turned into a village, drove through, down a dirt track, past a cocoa plantation and saw gangs of children coming towards us.

They wore grubby, torn T-shirts and carried machetes, their heads hung in confusion.

It was a Wednesday morning. The oldest was 13 years old. The others didn't know their age. The youngest was probably six or seven.

As we talked to them, another gang passed us on their way to work. After that a group of women, who saw nothing unusual about child workers.

Then their boss turned up, on a bicycle, looking for them. He was only 15 himself.

It turned out the boys were shunted between maize, coffee and cocoa farms - depending on the season. If they were paid, it was the equivalent of a pound a day - between the ten of them."

"We spend all the time bent over in the field," one said.

"It's terrible," said another. "Hot, tiring work."

"Down the road to my right was a cocoa farm.

In front of me was evidence of the contravention of at least two International Labour Organisation conventions aimed at protecting children from abusive labour and giving them a right to an education.

If child labour is so easy to find, the numbers might be in the hundreds of thousands, if not the millions.

I gave their names to an official of the Ivory Coast government and told him where we found them. I showed their pictures to the chocolate spokesman, Bob Eagle.

There was no sign that any immediate help was on its way to them. Mr Eagle said exploitative child labour was unacceptable in his industry - and reiterated the deadline of July 2005 to end it.

But that means, although we know who they are and where they are, they could be working in the farms for at least another three years." Humphrey Hawksley said this in 2002, thinking it would be over by 2005. It is now 2010 and nothing has changed. Will it ever?

What can you do to stop child trafficking? Don't support the business. I buy cocao, buy it child labor free from the health food stores. We have the power, we can choose these children's freedom or slavery. Are the poor worth fighting for?'s Featured Resource

Challenges: “Nobody ever did, or ever will, escape the consequences of his choices.” - Alfred A. Montapert. I found articles on this issue from 2001, this has been going on in the news for 9 years ... where have I been?!

Triumphs: “There are two primary choices in life: to accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility for changing them.” - Denis Waitley. I choose to accept the responsibility for changing them. I have not had a chocolate bar for 178 days since on this earth diet, and the cocao powder that I do buy to make my own chocolate balls, I will make sure it is fair trade now that I am aware of this trafficking.

What I Ate Today:

Breakfast: A beet, carrot, celery and ginger juice. Water with lemon squeezed in it.

Lunch: Strawberries and black berries.

Dinner: Green Thai Potatoe Curry with brown rice! mmm mmm mmm it is so rich with flavours and spices :) Recipe below

Dessert: Strawberries with peanut butter! It is like peanut butter and jelly ... the real deal! mmm mmm mmm!

Snacks: A Avocado with walnuts!

Recipe: Recipe for the Green Thai Curry is in blog day 21.

Exercise: I exercised my body with a bike ride to the grocery store to buy a coconut for the curry and a skateboard to the library.

187 days to go!!!


  1. I bought chocolate all those years and had no idea ... and while I was feeding my addiction I was torturing children!

  2. Thanks for this post. I recently wrote on the same topic, and am heartened to find so much advocacy and activism out there. Keep up the good work.