Are Children’s tears being mixed with cocoa in chocolates?

Countries such as Ivory Coast and Ghana are major exporters of cocoa beans, a bean responsible for the great taste of our chocolate bars. Nevertheless, the beauty of these chocolate bars masks a long and dishonourable production process. Let us zoom in to an excruciating situation in the Ivory Coast explained in “The Black Book on Corporations” written by German journalists Klaus Werner and Hand Weiss, published in 2001. Children from poor families in neighbouring countries are recruited under false pretences. An alleged cocoa farmer training program should provide these children with valuable skills needed to become a real farmer. After a few years, they would return to their families, but nothing could be further from the truth. Instead, the children are being forced to work on cocoa plantations in the Ivory Coast without salary and without the promised farmers training program. With bare hands these children are forced to pick cocoa pods, extract beans using machetes and carry heavy bags. If they complain or flee, they are beaten or even murdered (Zwartboek Wereldmerken en Hun Praktijken (The Black Book on Corporations), 2001). Due to the silence surrounding this topic, the story seems hard to believe. It, therefore, triggered de Keuringsdienst van Waarde, a group of Dutch journalists, to carry out further research in Burkina Faso through conversations with former child slaves. Sadly, the children could confirm this story not only with words but also with clearly visible wounds as a result of punishments.

According to the de Keuringsdienst van Waarde, approximately 2.5 million cocoa farms exist in Ghana and the Ivory Coast with approximately 2.26 million children carrying out some form of labour on these plantations of which more than 2 million children are exposed to ‘worst forms of child labour’. This involves working hours of more than 9 hours a day 7 days a week, working under dangerous circumstances, human trafficking, dept bondage, or forced labour. How is this still possible? This is shocking, unacceptable I am telling myself while innocently looking at the piece of chocolate cake I am unconsciously eating while writing this blog. This incident shows how unaware I and presumably a lot of people are about the origin of our chocolate, mainly because we are not directly confronted with the issue. This is exactly the reason why awareness on this crisis is imperative. Confronting large companies such as Nestlé is impossible, since the long chain of different corporations, exporters and cocoa farmers involved in the production process make it a hard to trace business. The researchers were thus determined to create their own chocolate company using only traceable beans by working in direct cooperation with a set group of cocoa farmers to compete with these big boys. Tony’s Chocolonely was born. With incredibly tasty chocolate, they lead by example and show the world that chocolate can be made differently. By following Tony’s recipe for slave free cocoa, it’s possible to make slave free chocolate and be commercially successful. The recipe is made of 5 sourcing principles:

  1.  The cocoa beans are fully traceable, purchased directly from the partner cooperatives in Ivory Coast and Ghana.
  2.  Buy the cocoa at an additional premium because the price that farmers usually get paid for their cocoa makes it impossible for them to escape the poverty trap.
  3.  Invest in the cooperatives you work with and help to make the farmers independent and stronger.
  4.  Work with farmers for at least 5 years. That way they know they’ll receive the chocolate’s premium for their harvest for the next few years. That gives them the opportunity to make long-term investments in their farms.
  5.  Not only does the price of cocoa need to be higher, but so does the production. Everyone has to take responsibility for the recipe to work therefore higher quality will come at higher price.

Tony offered a step forward, but for now their chocolate is still, as a result of the price tag, mainly purchased as a gift and not as a standard chocolate bar for oneself. Therefore, awareness should be raised about the horror behind chocolate in order to make a significant change, because, no matter how cheap the chocolate, no one deserves to suffer to satisfy our taste buds. Next time you’re tearing open your chocolate bar make sure to ask yourself: is this chocolate free from a child’s tears?

Written by Else Ellermann & Sheen Gurrib

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