A choice that makes the difference

Chocolate Origins Part 3: Exploitation

Slaves as the Labour Force

The mass production of cacao beans started when the Spanish took over cacao plantations and shipped the beans to Spain. A cacao plantation is usually only a small acreage, but there are thousands of cacao plantations in West Africa. The cacao tree grows only in areas 20° on either side of the equator. Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and other west African countries use children as slaves; Central and South America rarely use slaves.

Plantations are usually run by local people, doing the endless back-breaking work, and being paid the tiniest of a percentage of what chocolate sells for.

Companies who do not care if children are slaves on the cacao plantations. Child and adult slavery have been documented for over 200 years! But even with written stories going back centuries, and documentaries and advertising campaigns against child-slavery, most people seem to be unaware that slavery, and in particular, child slavery, is accepted in order to produce the majority of the chocolate we choose. The very large (and some small) chocolate makers make 70% of the chocolate in the world, and know that child-slavery is how the cacao they use to make their chocolate is harvested. And yet, they continue as ever.

A simple remedy to help end child-slavery is for any company buying cacao in West Africa, in particular, is to pay adults a living wage so that they can live decently and can afford to send their children to school and get them the health care they might need.