The Washington Post 'Cocoa's Child Laborers'

June 06, 2019

The Washington Post 'Cocoa's Child Laborers'

Read the full article in the Washington Post here

This is an important read if you are interested in the politics of food, especially that of 'big' chocolate.

Those of us in the specialty chocolate (and coffee) world watched, for two decades, as the big chocolate companies created initiative after initiative ensuring their supply chains would prioritize environmental sustainability and the eradication of child/slave labor. But if you visit a rural cacao farm almost anywhere in the world, nothing has improved. In fact, climate change is compounding many of the economic and social ills. And this is not unique to cacao/chocolate. Coffee is experiencing a similar situation.

The most important take-away for me from this article is that we, as Western consumers, have the power to solve these issues. If we are willing to pay the true cost of luxury foods - sugar, coffee, chocolate, tea - and absorb the real environmental and social costs of enjoying these foods, then many of these dire social and environmental issues would be resolved.

Yes, that means your chocolate bar should not cost as little as $2.99. In fact, the $3.99 faux luxury bars are part of the problem.

I think it's also important not to demonize our chocolate comrades in West Africa. Most of the people working in cacao farming and chocolate in West Africa are good, hard-working souls simply trying to take care of their families. There are evil people everywhere in the world, and in all industries, so child labor and other supply chain atrocities are not isolated to West Africa. In my opinion, it's going to take government institutions, large multi-national chocolate companies and Western consumers to be the protagonists of change.

- Jody

Organizations that are doing great work around price/transparency:

True Price - https://trueprice.org/a-roadmap-for-true-pricing/

Solidaridad Network - https://www.solidaridadnetwork.org/

Uncommon Cacao - https://www.uncommoncacao.com/

Poignant posts from the article:

'At least 16,000 children, and perhaps many more, are forced to work on West African cocoa farms by people other than their parents, according to estimates from a 2018 survey led by a Tulane University researcher.'

'That particular sort of form of trafficking speaks to a broader phenomenon that is not specific to cocoa, is not specific to Côte d’Ivoire but speaks of people seeking opportunity and that happens all over the world.'

'What makes the eradication of child labor such a daunting task is that, by most accounts, its roots lie in poverty.'

'Child labor in the cocoa industry will continue to be a struggle as long as we continue to pay farmers a fraction of the cost of sustainable production. . . .'

'To succeed, the companies would have to overcome the powerful economic forces that draw children into hard labor in one of the world’s poorest places.'

'In all, the industry, which collects an estimated $103 billion in sales annually, has spent more than $150 million over 18 years to address the issue.'