Slavery In The Chocolate Industry. By Judy Chicangana

Who doesn’t enjoy a good chocolate bar? (By the way, my favourite is white chocolate). According to, in 2017, Switzerland was the leader of chocolate consumption per capita with 8.8 kg consumed per year followed by Austria and Germany. The following figure shows the UK in the top 5 countries of chocolate consumption per capita worldwide in 2017.

(Zion, 2018) In terms of value, the market represented approximately US$103 billion globally in 2017. Big population markets such as India and China are registering to increase in consumption. 

With the UK in the top 5 of consumers per capita, we can suggest that chocolate is an important treat for Brits. But, do we know the horrors and abuse behind the chocolate industry?.

Chocolate is made from cocoa beans which grow in humid and tropical climates. The leading producers are the Ivory Coast and Ghana that contribute with approximately 57% of the entire world’s production according to data provided by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Have a look at the following chart.

According to The World Bank (2019), the poverty rate in Ivory Coast was 46% in 2015 (using the National Poverty Line). Recent data published by (2019) says that agriculture is 25% of GDP and 60% of total exports. This sector employs two-thirds of the population and deals in products such as cocoa, coffee, rubber, cotton, palm oil, cashew nuts and bananas. 

According to The Guardian, 6 million people depend on cocoa, and the average daily earning for a farmer is 74p. Producers receive around 6% of the final product’s value. Cocoa villages are desperately poor; some have no access to a water pump, electricity, and a few have sanitation or drainage.

Several organizations and journalists have exposed the use of child labour and slavery on cocoa farms in Western Africa. The Guardian (2019) mentions that more than 2 million children are working in West Africa’s cocoa fields, some using hazardous chemicals or working with machetes. The industry has become secretive after the first revelation of these practices as the “cheaper” workforce helps to keep prices competitive.

According to The Food Empowerment (n.d.):

“In 2004, the Ivorian First Lady’s entourage allegedly kidnapped and killed a journalist reporting on government corruption in its profitable cocoa industry. In 2010, Ivorian government authorities detained three newspaper journalists after they published an article exposing government corruption in the cocoa sector. The farms of Western Africa supply cocoa to international giants such as Hershey’s, Mars, and Nestlé—revealing the industry’s direct connection to the worst forms of child labour, human trafficking, and slavery.”

Children in this part of the world are surrounded by poverty. From young ages, they work to support and help their families. Some children are convinced by traffickers that working in cocoa farms is a well-paid job; others are sold by their own families. Frequently, small children are abducted from villages and forced to work hard in cocoa farms for years, sometimes for the rest of their lives. 

Traffickers manage children’s payment using it for their food and maintenance. (According to the Washington Post, they receive approximately US$9 per child for a week of work. Every kid would receive half of that – if anything).

Children working on cocoa farms are between 5-16 years old, 40% are girls. They work long hours starting at 6:00 A.M using chainsaws and machetes as their primary tools. These “tools” leave permanent scars in their hands, arms, legs and shoulders. They also pack the cocoa beans into 100 pounds of weight sacks which they drag through the forest. When the children refuse or can’t do the job, they are heavily beaten. As if this were not enough, children are exposed to agricultural chemicals that are used to avoid insects that could ruin the plantations. 

To complete the panorama, children are feed with the cheapest food available and sleep on wooden planks in smalls buildings with no access to clean water or sanitary bathrooms. Honestly, what kind of life is that?

(Food Empowerment Project, n.d) One freed slave was asked to send a message to chocolate consumers, he said:

“When people eat chocolate, they are eating my flesh.” 

You will read on the news that companies are doing things to eliminate this situation; however, it is just in the paper as the case continues on and on. 20 years ago, the battle to eradicate this horrible condition started, and still remains. We are talking about huge companies that could pay reasonable wages to people to work on their products. However, they choose not to do so. According to the Washington Post (2019) in an article published on June 5th 2019; Mars, Nestlé, Hershey, Mondelez and Godiva can’t guarantee that their products are free of child labour.

This is a clear violation of human rights, and it is also a violation of African laws. However, nobody is doing what is required to stop this. What should we do? Who is to blame? 

Surely, we could have long debates about other’s responsibility on this; the African government, African traffickers, big corporations and so on and so forth. However, as consumers, we need to look for the way to put our foot on this and stop any violations from happening. We could support the journalists that risk their lives to report these situations, we could support politicians that fight for these children’s human rights, we could be more informed about the products we buy, and lastly, we could demand fair trade in the products we consume. I will start avoiding these brands in the supermarket until it is clear that this situation has stopped. What if all of us do something in protest of this situation? What will you do?.



One thought on “Slavery In The Chocolate Industry. By Judy Chicangana

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