Putting an End to Child Labor in Cocoa Fields

by October 21, 2013

cocoaChocolate comes from the cacoa or cocoa plant and grows in tropical climates. Most of the chocolate we eat today is grown on the continent of Africa and Latin America.  In West Africa, cocoa is a commodity crop grown primarily for export. As the chocolate industry has grown over the years, so has the demand for cheap cocoa.

Cocoa Production Introduces Child Labor

Today, cocoa farmers barely make a living selling the beans and often resort to the use of child labor in order to keep their prices competitive.

Aside from large-scale production in West Africa, a significant amount of cocoa is also grown in Latin America. This is where the majority of organic cocoa originates.  At this time, child labor and/or slave labor have not been documented on these cocoa farms. While it remains possible that some Latin American farms may employ these practices, it is unlikely and certainly not widespread as is the case in West Africa.

The truth is that consumers today have no sure way of knowing if the chocolate they are buying involved the use of child labor or slave labor. There are many different labels on chocolate bars today, such as Fair Trade Certified, however, no single label can guarantee that the chocolate was made without the use of exploitive labor.

Fair Trade Certification Helps Minimize Child Labor

In 2010, the founders of the Fair Trade Certification process had to suspend several of their West African suppliers due to evidence that they were using child labor.

Fairtrade is an alternative approach to conventional trade and is based on a partnership between producers and consumers. Fairtrade offers producers a better deal and improved terms of trade. This allows them the opportunity to improve their lives and plan for their future. Fairtrade offers consumers a powerful way to reduce poverty through their every day shopping.

Over 50,000 cocoa growers in eleven countries are members of Fair Trade cooperatives. Fair Trade cocoa is grown in

  • Belize
  • Bolivia
  • Cameroon
  • Costa Rica
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • Ghana
  • Haiti
  • Cote D’Ivoire
  • Nicaragua
  • and Peru.

When a product carries the FAIRTRADE Mark it means the producers and traders have met Fairtrade Standards. The Standards are designed to address the imbalance of power in trading relationships, unstable markets and the injustices of conventional trade. Chocolate is used in a variety of products; lotions, body washes and even cosmetics contain traces of the bean.

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