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  • Writer's pictureJoe Garms

Child Labor/Slavery and Chocolate

In honoring the St. Andrew Good Earth commitment, there is a price to pay as we Americans eat millions of pounds of chocolate the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day.

Unfortunately, the cocoa farmers in West Africa that produce a large portion of the world’s cocoa are stuck in poverty. Low prices for cocoa have drastic consequences for farmers and their families. It is not that cocoa farmers don’t want a bright future for their kids, it is simply a means of survival. When cocoa prices are low, yields are low, and farmers are unable to pay for adult laborers, thus leaving them with no choice but to use their children as labor in lieu of sending them to school. Even as the demand for cocoa increases, dependence on child slavery and child labor have shown little sign of improving.

The Tulane University 2013/14 Survey Research on Child Labor in West African Cocoa Growing Areas revealed that the number of children involved in hazardous work in cocoa increased by 46% in the Ivory Coast between 2009 and 2014.

The good news is that progress to combat child labor is seen as local governments work together with cocoa manufacturers and farmers to get kids off the farms, out of hazardous work conditions, and into schools.

Fair Trade Certified Chocolate can be an effective tool for addressing child labor by raising farmers incomes so they can have a sustainable livelihood, invest in their farms, and hire adult workers instead of children. In addition, farming communities can have money to invest in education for children and develop strict standards that prohibit child labor, and monitor and enforce these standards.

We can help decrease causes of child labor by buying chocolate from companies that are UTZ Certified and Fair Trade Certified, sold locally at Walmart, Aldi, Drug Emporium and Whole Foods.

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