Despite pledges that were made nearly a decade ago, much of the cocoa being used by the world’s largest multinationals is being harvested by children on the impoverished African West Coast. The expose was made by an investigative Washington Post report on West African cocoa farms.
Some of the children that were interviewed by the Post were as young as 15 yet are forced to falsely report their age to be above 18. The young boys are leaving their families and trafficked the border from the impoverished Burkina Faso as they seek to make it out in the farms of Ivory Coast.
One of those interviewed, Abou Traore reported that he has been working on the farm since he was 10 years old.
Most of the children labouring on cocoa farms are between the age of 12 and 16, but reporters have found children as young as 5. In addition, 40% of these children are girls, and some stay for a few months, while others end up working on the cocoa farms throughout adulthood. According to a 2015 US Labour Department report, more than 2 million children are involved in dangerous labour.
A World Cocoa Foundation report stated that West African farms form an important part of the world’s cocoa market supplying more than 70% of the world’s cocoa.
The children are exposed to gruesome conditions on the farms, using machetes, climbing up trees and using chaining forests to clear the forests. There have been reports that the conditions mirror slavery as children are beaten for being slow and any other offence. They work in an environment rife with agriculture chemicals without any protective clothing.
The world’s chocolate companies have been missing deadlines to end child labour in their supply since the turn of the millennium. Next year they are facing yet another deadline having missed the ones in 2005, 2008 and 2010. Industry experts have already indicated that this trend is likely to continue with the impending deadline.
When confronted about whether they could guarantee that their products were not produced using child labour, company executives from the biggest manufacturers could not give any reassurances. This is because a big company such as Mars can only trace 24% of its cocoa back to farms.
Header Image Credits: Shadow and Act