This is a response to the comment from Susan Smith on my original blog about slave labor chocolate.
We feel that is unacceptable have chocolate on the market that forces people to work against their will. I am posting some other expert views on this horrific chocolate nightmare that most people support. See everytime we buy chocolate we cast a vote for how and who produced our chocolate. Your dollar is your vote. It is time to let the big chocolate companies that times MUST change. Anthony Robins always says are you trying to do it or are you doing it. It is time to put corporate greed after human rights!
The first post here comes from John Robins website Food Revolution.
Is There Slavery In Your Chocolate?
Chocolate. The very word conjures feelings of pleasure, sensuality, and the richness of life. The scientific name of the tree from whose beans we make chocolate, likewise bespeaks the depth of feeling human beings have always had for chocolate. It is Theobroma cacao L. The name of the genus, Theobroma, comes from two Greek words: theos, meaning gods, and broma, meaning foods. Thus, literally, "food of the Gods."
Chocolate has a remarkable history. When Cortez and his conquistadors first encountered the Aztecs and met the last Aztec emperor, Montezuma, they were amazed to find a thriving metropolis with more than one million residents, making it several times larger than the biggest city in Europe at the time. Cortez and his band were confronting a culture and an ecosystem that was wildly strange to them. Yet what they found most astonishing, according to their reports, was the fact that Montezuma's royal coffers were overflowing, not with gold, but with cocoa beans. Here, gold was used primarily for architectural and artistic beauty and had only secondary monetary value. The coin of the realm in pre-conquest Mexico was not gold, it was cocoa beans. When Cortez arrived in the Aztec capital, Montezuma's coffers held more than 9,000 tons of cocoa beans.
Since these beans were money, they were roasted and eaten only by the wealthiest of citizens, only by those who, literally, had "money to burn." According to the reports of the conquistador's, Montezuma himself drank only cocoa potions, and this from golden goblets which were given to the poor after a single use. This may have been one of the most extreme examples of conspicuous consumption in history - the eating of money itself.
Today we know that cacao, cocoa and chocolate are the richest known sources of a little-known substance called theobromine, a close chemical relative of caffeine. Theobromine, like caffeine, and also like the asthma drug theophylline, belong to the chemical group known as xanthine alkaloids. Chocolate products contain some caffeine, but not nearly enough to explain the attractions, fascinations, addictions, and effects of chocolate. Chocolate addiction may really be theobromine addiction.
Slavery Lurking Behind The Sweetness
Most of us, though, aren't all that concerned with the history or chemistry of chocolate. When it comes down to it, frankly, we are content so long as the market shelves remain well stocked with affordable tins of cocoa and bars of chocolate candy.
Or at least that's how it was in the United States until the summer of 2001. For then the Knight Ridder Newspapers across the country ran a series of investigative articles that revealed a very dark side to our chocolate consumption. In riveting detail, the series profiled young boys who were tricked into slavery, or sold as slaves, to Ivory Coast cocoa farmers. Ivory Coast, located on the southern coast of West Africa, is by far the world's largest supplier of cocoa beans, providing 43% of the world's supply. There are 600,000 cocoa farms in Ivory Coast which together account for one-third of the nation's entire economy.
An investigative report by the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) in 2000 indicated the size of the problem. According to the BBC, hundreds of thousands of children are being purchased from their parents for a pittance, or in some cases outright stolen, and then shipped to the Ivory Coast, where they are sold as slaves to cocoa farms. These children typically come from countries such as Mali, Burkina Faso, and Togo. Destitute parents in these poverty-stricken lands sell their children to traffickers believing that they will find honest work once they arrive in Ivory Coast and then send some of their earnings home. But that's not what happens. These children, usually 12-to-14-years-old but sometimes younger, are forced to do hard manual labor 80 to 100 hours a week. They are paid nothing, are barely fed, are beaten regularly, and are often viciously beaten if they try to escape. Most will never see their families again.
"The beatings were a part of my life," Aly Diabate, a freed slave, told reporters. "Anytime they loaded you with bags (of cocoa beans) and you fell while carrying them, nobody helped you. Instead they beat you and beat you until you picked it up again."
Brian Woods and Kate Blewett are ground-breaking film-makers who made history when they went undercover in China eight years ago to make a documentary which shook the world - "The Dying Rooms" - about the hideous conditions in Chinese state orphanages. Recently, they made a film about the use of child slaves in African cocoa fields. "It isn't the slavery we are all familiar with and which most of us imagine was abolished decades ago," says Brian Woods. "Back then, a slave owner could produce documents to prove ownership. Now, it's a secretive trade which leaves behind little evidence. Modern slaves are cheap and disposable. They have three things in common with their ancestors. They aren't paid, they are kept working by violence or the threat of it, and they are not free to leave."
Blewett and Woods tell of meeting Drissa, a young man from Mali who had been tricked into working on an Ivory coast cocoa farm. "When Drissa took his shirt off, I had never seen anything like it. I had seen some pretty nasty things in my time but this was appalling. There wasn't an inch of his body which wasn't scarred."
Slavery Past And Present
The ownership of one human being by another is illegal in Ivory Coast, as it is in every other country in the world today. But that doesn't mean slavery has ceased to exist. Rather, it has simply changed its form.
In times past, we had slaveowners. Now we have slaveholders. In both cases, the slave is forced to work by violence or the threat of violence, paid nothing, given only that which keeps him or her able to continue to work, is not free to leave, and can be killed without significant legal consequence. In many cases, nonownership turns out to be in the financial interest of slaveholders, who now reap all the benefits of ownership without the obligations and legal responsibilities.
Kevin Bales is author of Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy, and director of Free The Slaves, an American branch of Anti-Slavery International. He points out that one of the economic drawbacks of the old slavery was the cost of maintaining slaves who were too young or too old to work. Children rarely brought in more than they cost until the age of ten or twelve, though they were put to work as early as possible. Slavery was profitable, but the profitability was diminished by the cost of keeping infants, small children, and unproductive old people. The new slavery avoids this extra cost and so increases its profits.
In the United States, the old slavery consisted primarily of bringing people against their will from Africa. This represented a significant financial investment. Bales says that before the Civil War, the cost to purchase the average slave amounted to the equivalent of $50,000 (in today's dollars). Currently, though, enslaved people are bought and sold in the world's most destitute nations for only $50 or $100. The result is that they tend to be treated as disposable. Slaves today are so cheap that they're not even seen as a capital investment anymore. Unlike slaveowners, slaveholders don't have to take care of their slaves. They can just use them up, in the cocoa fields for example, and then throw them away.
Pressure For Change
As publicity about the use of child slaves in the chocolate industry mounted in the summer and fall of 2001, so did pressure on the chocolate manufacturers. Chocolate is a symbol of sweetness and innocence, but Western chocolate consumers know there is nothing sweet and nothing innocent about slavery.
On June 28, 2001, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 291-115 to look into setting up a labeling system so consumers could be assured no slave labor was used in the production of their chocolate. Unhappy with this turn of events, the U.S. chocolate industry and its allies mounted an intense lobbying effort to fight off legislation that would require "slave free" labels for their products. The Chocolate Manufacturer's Association, a trade group that represents U.S. chocolate producers, hired two former Senate majority leaders - Bob Dole, a Republican, and George Mitchell, a Democrat - to lobby lawmakers on its behalf.
"A 'slave free' label would hurt the people it is intended to help" because it would lead to a boycott of all Ivory Coast cocoa, said Susan Smith, a spokeswoman for the Chocolate Manufacturer's Association. She pointed out that no producer using Ivory Coast cocoa could possibly state that none of its chocolate was produced by child slavery. Slave-picked beans are mixed together with others harvested by free field hands.
For a long time, many major chocolate makers have insisted that they bear no responsibility for the problem, since they don't own the cocoa farms. But pressure on the industry was mounting. The legislation to address child slavery in West Africa that had passed in the House (sponsored by Representative Eliot Engel) was by now almost certain to pass in the Senate (where it was sponsored by Senator Tom Harkin). On October 1, 2001, the chocolate industry announced a four-year plan to eventually eliminate child slavery in cocoa-producing nations, and particularly West Africa, where most of the world's chocolate is grown. If all went according to the plan, called the "Harkin-Engel Protocol," the "worst forms of child labor" - including slavery - would no longer be used to produce chocolate and cocoa by 2005.
Larry Graham, president of the Chocolate Manufacturer's Association, said "the industry has changed, permanently and forever." The agreement was signed by the manufacturer's association and the World Cocoa Foundation; as well as chocolate producers Hershey's, M&M Mars, Nestle and World's Finest Chocolate; and the cocoa processors Blommer Chocolate, Guittard Chocolate, Barry Callebaut and Archer Daniels Midland. It was endorsed by a wide variety of groups including the government of Ivory Coast, the International Labor Organization's child labor office, the anti-slavery group Free the Slaves, the Child Labor Coalition, the International Cocoa Organization (which represents cocoa growing countries), and the National Consumer League.
The six-point protocol commits the chocolate industry to work with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the International Labor Organization in monitoring and remedying abusive forms of child labor used in growing and processing cocoa beans. A series of deadlines is part of the plan. For example, an independent monitoring and public reporting system is to be in place by May, 2002. Industry-wide voluntary standards of public certification are to be in place by July 1, 2005.
In addition, the chocolate companies agreed to fund a joint international foundation, run by a board comprised of industry and NGO representatives, to oversee and sustain efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor in the industry. Plus, the agreement provides for a formal advisory group to investigate child labor practices in West Africa, and a commitment by the chocolate companies to "identify positive development alternatives for the children" who might be affected.
It is clear that the recent public and political awareness of slavery in cocoa production has moved both the government and chocolate industry to action. We still have a long way to go, but progress is being made for the first time in years.
Whose Chocolate Is Made With Slavery, And Whose Is Made Without?
Even with the progress represented by the chocolate industry's plan, however, it will nevertheless take years for chocolate products to be "slave-free." Is there any way for chocolate consumers to know today that they are not consuming products made with child slavery?
A 2001 inquiry into the cocoa sources used by 200 major chocolate manufacturers found significant differences between companies.
The $13 billion U.S. chocolate industry is heavily dominated by just two firms - Hershey's and M&M Mars - who control two-thirds of the market. Unfortunately, both of these companies fall into the category of those companies who use large amounts of Ivory Coast cocoa, and whose products are almost certainly produced in part by slavery.
Hershey Foods Corp., the nation's largest chocolate-maker, says it is "shocked" and "deeply concerned" that its products, such as Hershey's Kisses, Nuggets, Hershey chocolate bars and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, may be made with cocoa produced by child slaves. The company, which has a long history of involvement with children, says it is deeply embarrassed by revelations of indirect involvement with child slavery. (Hershey Foods, which has a market capitalization on Wall Street of $8.4 billion, is affiliated with a school for orphaned and disadvantaged children, established in 1909 by company founder Milton S. Hershey and his wife Catherine.)
M&M Mars and Hershey Foods Corp. are not alone. Other companies whose chocolate is almost certainly tainted with child slavery include: ADM Cocoa, Ben & Jerry's, Cadbury Ltd., Chocolates by Bernard Callebaut, Fowler's Chocolate, Godiva, Guittard Chocolate Company, Kraft, Nestle, See's Candies, The Chocolate Vault, and Toblerone. While most of these companies have issued condemnations of slavery, and expressed a great deal of moral outrage that it exists in the industry, they each have acknowledged that they use Ivory Coast cocoa and so have no grounds to ensure consumers that their products are slavery-free.
Companies like Mars, Hershey, and Nestle often say that there is no way they can control the labor practices of their suppliers. But there are other chocolate companies who manage to do so, and it would seem that if the bigger companies really wanted to reform problems in the supply chain, they have the power and ability to do so.
There are in fact many chocolate companies who only use cocoa that has definitively not been produced with slave labor. These companies include Clif Bar, Cloud Nine, Dagoba Organic Chocolate, Denman Island Chocolate, Gardners Candies, Green and Black's, Kailua Candy Company, Koppers Chocolate, L.A. Burdick Chocolates, Montezuma's Chocolates, Newman's Own Organics, Omanhene Cocoa Bean Company, Rapunzel Pure Organics, and The Endangered Species Chocolate Company.
At present, no organic cocoa beans are coming from Ivory Coast, so organic chocolate is unlikely to be tainted by slavery. Newman's Own Organics is one of the largest of the slavery-free companies. The company's chocolate is purchased through the Organic Commodity Project in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It comes from Costa Rica where the farms are closely monitored.
Some companies go further and buy only Fair Trade chocolate. In the early 1990s, Rapunzel initiated a "Hand in Hand" program called Eco-Trade - Fair Trade and Ecology. Strict guidelines and commitments must be maintained by all Rapunzel's partners in buying, selling, trading, growing and processing commodities in developing countries. Guaranteed fair pricing, long term trade relationships, living wages, and no child labor are just a few of the criteria. The company's cocoa comes from cooperatives in Bolivia and the Dominican Republic. Rapunzel's program is one of the most effective means of positive change for the lives of farmers and their families worldwide. The company's donations have built a school in the Dominican Republic, an orphanage in Brazil, and provided major support for organic farmers in Bolivia.
Similarly, Cloud Nine has organized 150 grower families into a certified organic cooperative, and has committed to purchasing cocoa from them year-round at over-market organic prices.
Likewise, The Endangered Species Chocolate company only purchases cocoa through the Fair Trade Initiative. In supporting smaller farm co-operatives, the company says "we encourage the indigenous people to harvest what is naturally grown in the area rather than clear-cutting the rainforest to make way for more destructive uses of land."
According to Frederick Schilling of the Dagoba Organic Chocolate company, "By being paid a premium price, these farming communities can and are developing their communities by their own means and terms; often times building schools for their children."
Although it is chocolate that has gotten the most publicity of late, chocolate isn't the only American staple produced by slaves. Some coffee beans are also tainted by slavery. In addition to producing nearly half of the world's cocoa, Ivory Coast is the world's fourth-largest grower of Robusta coffee. Robusta beans are used for espresso and instant coffees. They are also blended with milder Arabica beans to make ground coffees.
Often, coffee and cocoa are grown together on the same farm. The tall cacao trees shade the shorter coffee bushes. On some Ivory Coast farms, child slaves harvest coffee beans as well as the cacao pods that yield cocoa beans. More than 7,000 tons of Ivory Coast coffee arrives in the U.S. each year.
As with chocolate, coffee beans picked by slaves are mixed together with those picked by paid workers. Some coffee industry executives acknowledge the use of slaves, but say the labor issue isn't their concern. "This industry isn't responsible for what happens in a foreign country," said Gary Goldstein of the National Coffee Association, which represents the companies that make Folgers, Maxwell House, Nescafe and other brands.
Neither Folgers nor Maxwell House responded to inquiries about the origins of their coffee. Shipping records, though, showed that on Sunday, March 18, 2001, 337 tons of Ivory Coast coffee beans were sent to Folgers through Houston, Texas.
The U.S. is the world's largest consumer of both chocolate and coffee. In fact, coffee is the second largest legal U.S. import - after oil. Fortunately, there is considerable momentum developing in this country and elsewhere behind the emergence of Fair Trade coffee.
According to the San Francisco-based Global Exchange, "The best way to prevent child labor in the fields is to pay workers a living wage… Most people in this country would rather buy a cup of coffee picked under fair trade conditions than sweatshop labor conditions… Fair Trade Certified coffee is the first product being introduced in the United States with an independently monitored system to ensure that it was produced under fair labor conditions… To become Fair Trade certified, an importer must meet stringent international criteria [including] paying a minimum price per pound of $1.26."
Paying a minimum price of $1.26 to growers is a major step, because coffee prices on the world market currently run between 60 - 95 cents a pound, trapping many coffee farmers in an inescapable cycle of poverty, debt, and hunger. Ten years ago, the world coffee economy was worth $30 billion - and producers received $12 billion, or 40 percent. But today, the world market has grown to be worth $50 billion - and producers receive just $8 billion, or 16 percent. Though they have not lowered consumer prices, coffee companies are paying far less for the beans they use. This creates, at best, sweatshops in the field, and at worst, the conditions that breed human slavery.
Fair Trade, whether it's coffee or chocolate, means an equitable partnership between consumers in North America and producers in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean. It means that farmers' cooperatives around the world can count on a stable and reliable living wage. When consumers purchase Fair Trade coffee or chocolate, they know that their money is going to local farmers where it is then invested in health care, education, environmental stewardship, community development, and economic independence. They know it's not going to enrich CEOs making tens of millions of dollars annually. This is important because destitute farmers are struggling to survive and even resorting to child slavery, while…
Chicago-based Sara Lee Corp. supplies more than 200 million pounds of coffee annually to more than 100,000 restaurants in the United States. In 2000, the most recent year for which public records exist, Sara Lee CEO John H. Bryan took home $45,512,113 in compensation.
In 2000, Starbucks CEO Orin C. Smith, received $13,873,575 in compensation from the coffee company, plus $12,847,925 in stock option exercises. He still holds more than $33,000,000 in unexercised stock options.
Neither of these gentlemen, however, matched the pay received by the CEO of the company that owns Northfield, Illinois-based Maxwell House. In 2000, the CEO of Philip Morris, Geoffrey C. Bible, received $45,794,705 in compensation for his services, not including the more than $71,000,000 he holds in unexercised stock options.
Others in the coffee industry also did well. Folgers is owned by Procter and Gamble, whose CEO, Durk I. Jager, received $32,828,276 in compensation in 2000, not including the more than $10,000,000 he holds in unexercised stock options.
On the chocolate side, things are a little less posh, but top management seems to be able to get by. In 2000, Kenneth L. Wolfe, CEO of Hershey Foods, took home $7,877,554 in compensation from Hershey Foods, plus $2,615,838 in stock option exercises from prior grants. He still holds more than $4,000,000 in unexercised stock options.
In 2000, G. Allen Andreas, CEO of Archer Daniels Midland, owner of ADM Cocoa, received $8,381,371 in compensation for his services to the company.
It is not easy for most consumers to stomach the contrast between exorbitant salaries such as these, and the gruesome reality of slave labor. Nor is easy to swallow the reality of such excess when millions of coffee and cocoa farmers around the world who depend on their harvests to provide for their families are facing debt and starvation. There seems to be something particularly hideous about making this kind of money on the backs of the world's poorest people.
Fair Trade On The Rise
Fair trade is a growing trend. On October 4, 2000, Starbucks introduced whole bean Fair Trade coffee to 2,300 stores. A year later, the company announced it would brew Fair Trade coffee once a month. Across the country, there are now over 80 companies that have licensing agreements to offer Fair Trade certified coffee. These companies include Starbucks, Tully's, Peet's, Equal Exchange, Diedrich, and Green Mountain.
Kevin Bales, director of Free The Slaves, says that consumers "can make a significant impact on world slavery just by stopping for a moment and asking themselves how that particular item got to be so cheap. The low cost of many items defies belief. Part of the reason things are so cheap is that the big chain stores buy huge quantities at huge discounts, and have designed their distribution systems to reduce overhead all along the product chain. But I suspect that these efficiencies and economies of scale don't account for all of the cheapness. You see a lot of cheap items made in China, for example, and there are serious questions about what happens in Chinese factories. The bottom line is: oftentimes things are cheap because slaves helped produce them."
Most Western consumers, if they can identify slave-produced goods, would avoid them despite their lower price. But consumers do look for bargains, and don't usually stop to ask why a product is so cheap. It is certainly sobering to realize that by always looking for the best deal, we may be choosing slave-made products without knowing what we are buying.
We have reason for hope, though, based on how well most consumers respond to the challenge of slavery - when they know about it. Once people understand that slavery still exists, they are nearly unanimous in their desire to see it stopped. Fortunately, there are people who have taken on the task of informing people about the grim reality, and providing them with empowering alternatives.
One such activist is Deborah James, the Fair Trade Director of Global Exchange. She is currently coordinating a campaign against child slavery, and for Fair Trade, in the cocoa industry in West Africa. For the last two years, Deborah has spearheaded efforts to promote Fair Trade Certified coffee among campuses, community groups, and city councils around the nation. She led the successful campaign to pressure Starbucks to carry Fair Trade coffee in their stores, and is now campaigning to get industry giant Folgers to buy Fair Trade. (To learn about the Folgers campaign, see globalexchange.org/economy/coffee/folgers.html).
Other heroic activists have focussed on the carpet industry. Not that many years ago, many Oriental carpets were hand-woven by children who were forced to work in the most miserable of conditions for little or no pay. Many were made by child slaves. If you have an Oriental rug on your floor right now, there is a good chance that it was woven by slave children.
But then, a few years ago, a handful of European activists working from a tiny office with minimal funds started the Rugmark Campaign. In order to earn the "rugmark," carpet producers had to agree to cooperate with independent monitors, not to exploit children, and to turn over one percent of their carpet wholesale price to child-welfare organizations. A sophisticated monitoring team was built up that can detect fake labels, knows carpet making inside and out, and can't be corrupted. Today, the German, U.S., and Canadian governments recognize the Rugmark label, as does the largest mail-order company in the world, the Otto Versand Group. Major retailers in the United States, Germany and Holland now import only rugmarked carpets. In Europe, the market share possessed by rugmarked carpets stands at 30 percent, and is growing. The one percent from the producers has now built and staffed two Rugmark schools in the part of India where uneducated children were formerly fodder for the slave trade. The campaign has drawn the attention of other organizations, with the result that the German government and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) now fund other schools in the areas that used to be recruiting grounds for the carpet belt.
It is clear that, once aware, most people do not want to buy chocolate, coffee, rugs, or any other product made with slave labor. On the contrary, the success of Rugmark carpets, like the dramatic rise of Fair Trade chocolate and coffee, is a heartening example that given a chance most consumers want to be in an equitable relationship with the people who make the products they consume.
Seven Things You Can Do
1) Educate yourself further. Good sources of information include:
Global Exchange (www.globalexchange.org)
The Child Labor Coalition (www.stopchildlabor.org)
Unfair Trade (www.unfairtrade.co.uk)
Fair Trade (www.fairtrade.org/html/english.html)
Abolish: The Anti-Slavery Portal (www.iabolish.com)
For information on specific chocolate companies, see www.radicalthought.org
Kevin Bales' book Disposable People (University of California Press, 2000) is a thoroughly researched expose of modern day slavery.
2) Write a letter to the editor or an article in your local newspaper.
3) Buy Fair Trade chocolate and/or coffee for gifts that show you care about fairness for everyone. Or sell Fair Trade chocolate and/or coffee as a fundraiser for your church, school, or community group.
Fair Trade chocolate is available at http://store.globalexchange.org/chocolate.html
Fair Trade coffee is available at http://store.globalexchange.org/peace.html
4) Get stores in your community to carry Fair Trade chocolate and coffee. For support, email firstname.lastname@example.org
5) Contact the big chocolate companies, and ask them to buy Fair Trade cocoa. Hershey Foods Corp. can be reached at 100 Crystal A Drive, Hershey, PA 17033; (717) 534-6799. Mars, Inc. can be reached at 6885 Elm Street, McLean, VA 22101; (703) 821-4900. Tell them that you expect something to be done immediately to ensure that cocoa imported into the U.S. is not harvested by enslaved children.
6) Support the Fair Trade campaign by joining organizations such as Global Exchange. They can be reached at 2017 Mission Street, #303, San Francisco, California 94110; (415) 255-7296; email@example.com
7) Support the anti-slavery movement by joining organizations such as Anti-Slavery International. They can be reached in the U.S. at Suite 312-CIP, 1755 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036-2102. The main office is Anti-Slavery International, Thomas Clarkson House, The Stableyard, Broomgrove Road, London SW9 9TL, England
(John Robbins is the author of many best-sellers, including Diet For A New America, and his recently released The Food Revolution. He is the founder of EarthSave International, and can be contacted through the website foodrevolution.org)
This next post I found at JS Online, the website for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Slaves feed world's taste for chocolate
Captives common in cocoa farms of Africa
By SUDARSAN RAGHAVAN and SUMANA CHATTERJEE
Knight Ridder News Service
Last Updated: June 24, 2001
A Taste of Slavery
Zei Mathias, 15, spends his nights on a bench in Daloa, Ivory Coast.
SUNDAY: Americans spend $13 billion a year on chocolate, but few know that the main ingredient in their candy, cakes and ice cream may be harvested by children held in bondage. The world's cocoa processors - including ADM Cocoa in Milwaukee - know about the slave camps in the Ivory Coast, and some say they are trying to stop the trade. But fed by poverty, poor law enforcement, porous borders and corruption, slavery is a growing problem.
MONDAY: Slave traders troll the streets of Sikassa, Mali, looking for children to sell to cocoa bean farmers. For these opportunistic middlemen, it is a lucrative business.
TUESDAY: Brahima Male and Siaka Traure met two years ago in the little bus station in Sikassa, Mali, where they were eagerly awaiting new "jobs" in the Ivory Coast. Instead of work and money for their families, the two teenagers were sold into slavery on a cocoa farm.
A costumed figure hands out M&Ms at a candy trade show in Chicago earlier this month. Mars Inc., maker of M&Ms, is among companies that use cocoa from Ivory Coast, where some beans are harvested using child slave labor.
Low Prices Make Slave Labor Tempting
Thank heavens, the proportion of this type of criminal farmers remains very low still.
- Alfonse Douaty ,
Ivory Coast Agriculture Minister
How Slave-Grown Cocoa Gets Into Chocolate
Milwaukee: ADM plant makes Milwaukee a key site
Response: Industry answers concerns
Freedom: Immigrant panels act on behalf of immigrants
Contacts: How to reach companies
Daloa, Ivory Coast - There may be a hidden ingredient in the chocolate cake you baked, the candy bars your children sold for their school fund-raiser or that fudge ripple ice cream cone you enjoyed on Saturday afternoon.
Forty-three percent of the world's cocoa beans, the raw material in chocolate, come from small, scattered farms in this poor West African country. And on some of the farms, the hot, hard work of clearing the fields and harvesting the fruit is done by boys who were sold or tricked into slavery. Most of them are between the ages of 12 and 16. Some are as young as 9.
The lucky slaves live on corn paste and bananas. The unlucky ones are whipped, beaten and broken like horses to harvest the almond-sized beans that are made into chocolate treats for more fortunate children in Europe and the United States.
Aly Diabate was almost 12 when a slave trader promised him a bicycle and $150 a year to help support his poor parents in Mali. He worked for a year and a half for a cocoa farmer who is known as "Le Gros" ("the Big Man"), but he said his only rewards were the rare days when Le Gros' overseers or older slaves didn't flog him with a bicycle chain or branches from a cacao tree.
Cocoa beans come from pods on the cacao tree. To get the 400 or so beans it takes to make a pound of chocolate, the boys who work on Ivory Coast's cocoa farms cut 10 pods from the trees, slice them open, scoop out the beans, spread them in baskets or on mats and cover them to ferment. Then they uncover the beans, put them in the sun to dry, bag them and load them onto trucks to begin the long journey to America or Europe.
Aly said he doesn't know what the beans from the cacao tree taste like after they've been processed and blended with sugar, milk and other ingredients. That happens far away from the farm where he worked, in places such as Hershey, Pa., Milwaukee and San Francisco.
"I don't know what chocolate is," said Aly.
Americans spend $13 billion a year on chocolate, but most of them are as ignorant of where it comes from as the boys who harvest cocoa beans are about where their beans go.
More cocoa beans come from Ivory Coast than from anyplace else in the world. The country's beans are prized for their quality and abundance, and in the first three months of this year, more than 47,300 tons of them were shipped to the United States through Philadelphia and New York City, according to the Port Import Export Reporting Service. At other times of the year, Ivory Coast cocoa beans are delivered to Camden, N.J., Norfolk, Va., and San Francisco.
From the ports, the beans are shipped to cocoa processors. America's biggest are ADM Cocoa in Milwaukee, a subsidiary of Decatur, Ill.-based Archer Daniels Midland Co.; Barry Callebaut AG, which has its headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland; Minneapolis-based Cargill Inc.; and Nestle USA of Glendale, Calif., a subsidiary of the Swiss food giant.
But by the time the beans reach the processors, those picked by slaves and those harvested by free field hands have been jumbled together in warehouses, ships, trucks and rail cars. By the time they reach consumers in America or Europe, free beans and slave beans are so thoroughly blended that there is no way to know which chocolate products taste of slavery and which do not.
However, even the Chocolate Manufacturers Association, a trade group for American chocolate makers, acknowledges that slaves are harvesting cocoa on some Ivory Coast farms.
A 1998 report from UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund, concluded that some Ivory Coast farmers use enslaved children, many of them from the poorer neighboring countries of Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin and Togo. A report by the Geneva, Switzerland-based International Labor Organization, released June 15, found that trafficking in children is widespread in West Africa.
The State Department's year 2000 human rights report concluded that some 15,000 children between the ages of 9 and 12 have been sold into forced labor on cotton, coffee and cocoa plantations in northern Ivory Coast in recent years.
Aly Diabate and 18 other boys labored on a 494-acre farm, very large by Ivory Coast standards, in the southwestern part of the country. Their days began when the sun rose, which at this time of year in Ivory Coast is a few minutes after 6 a.m. They finished work about 6:30 in the evening, just before nightfall, when fireflies were beginning to illuminate the velvety night like Christmas lights. They trudged home to a dinner of burned bananas. If they were lucky, they were treated to yams seasoned with saltwater "gravy."
After dinner, the boys were ordered into a 24-by-20-foot room, where they slept on wooden planks without mattresses.
"Once we entered the room, nobody was allowed to go out," said Mamadou Traore, a thin, frail youth with serious brown eyes who is 19 now.
"We didn't cry, we didn't scream," said Aly (pronounced AL-ee). "We thought we had been sold, but we weren't sure."
The boys became sure one day when Le Gros walked up to Mamadou and ordered him to work harder. "I bought each of you for 25,000 francs (about $35)," the farmer said, according to Mamadou (MAH-mah-doo). "So you have to work harder to reimburse me."
Aly was barely 4 feet tall when he was sold into slavery, and he had a hard time carrying the heavy bags of cocoa beans.
"Some of the bags were taller than me," he said. "It took two people to put the bag on my head. And when you didn't hurry, you were beaten."
He was beaten more than the other boys were. You can still see the faint scars on his back, right shoulder and left arm.
"The beatings were a part of my life," Aly said.
At night, Aly had nightmares about working forever in the fields, about dying and nobody noticing. To drown them out, he replayed his memories of growing up in Mali, over and over again.
"I was always thinking about my parents and how I could get back to my country," he said.
But he didn't think about trying to escape.
"I was afraid," he said.
Allegations are denied
Le Gros (Leh GROW), whose name is Lenikpo Yeo, denied that he paid for the boys who worked for him, although Ivory Coast farmers often pay a finder's fee to someone who delivers workers to them. He also denied that the boys were underfed, locked up at night or forced to work more than 12 hours a day without breaks. He said they were treated well, and that he paid for their medical treatment.
"When I go hunting, when I get a kill, I divide it in half - one for my family and the other for them. Even if I kill a gazelle, the workers come and share it."
He denied beating any of the boys.
"I've never, ever laid hands on any one of my workers," Le Gros said. "Maybe I called them bad words if I was angry. That's the worst I did."
Le Gros said a Malian overseer beat one boy who had run away, but he said he himself did not order any beatings.
One day early last year, a boy named Oumar Kone was caught trying to escape. One of Le Gros' overseers beat him, said the other boys and local authorities.
A few days later, Oumar ran away again, and this time he escaped. He told elders in the local Malian immigrant community what was happening on Le Gros' farm. They called Abdoulaye Macko, who was then the Malian consul general in Bouake, a town north of Daloa, in the heart of Ivory Coast's cocoa- and coffee-growing region.
Macko (MOCK-o) went to the farm with several police officers, and he found the 19 boys and young men there. Aly, the youngest, was 13. The oldest was 21. They had spent anywhere from six months to 41/2 years on Le Gros' farm.
"They were tired, slim, they were not smiling," Macko said. "Except one child was not there. This one, his face showed what was happening. He was sick, he had (excrement) in his pants. He was lying on the ground, covered with cacao leaves because they were sure he was dying. He was almost dead. . . . He had been severely beaten."
According to medical records, other boys had healed scars as well as open, infected wounds all over their bodies.
Police freed the boys, and a few days later the Malian consulate in Bouake sent them all home to their villages in Mali. The sick boy was treated at a local hospital, then was sent home, too.
Le Gros was charged with assault against children and suppressing the liberty of people. The latter crime carries a five- to 10-year prison sentence and a hefty fine, said Daleba Rouba, attorney general for the region.
"In Ivorian law, an adult who orders a minor to hit and hurt somebody is automatically responsible as if he has committed the act," said Rouba. "Whether or not Le Gros did the beatings himself or ordered somebody, he is liable."
Le Gros spent 24 days in jail, and today he is a free man pending a court hearing that is scheduled for this week. Rouba said the case against Le Gros is weak because the witnesses against him have all been sent back to Mali.
"If the Malian authorities are willing to cooperate, if they can bring two or three of the children back as witnesses, my case will be stronger," Rouba said.
Mamadou Diarra, the Malian consul general in Bouake, said he would look into the matter.
Child trafficking experts say inadequate legislation, ignorance of the law, poor law enforcement, porous borders, police corruption and a shortage of resources help perpetuate the problem of child slavery in Ivory Coast. Only 12 convicted slave traders are serving time in Ivorian prisons. An additional eight, convicted in absentia, are on the lam.
The middlemen who buy Ivory Coast cocoa beans from farmers and sell them to processors seldom visit the country's cocoa farms, and when they do, it's to examine the beans, not the workers. Young boys are a common sight on the farms of West Africa, and it's impossible to know without asking which are a farmer's own children, which are field hands who will be paid $150 to $180 after a year's work and which are slaves.
"We've never seen child slavery," said G.H. Haidar, a cocoa buyer in Daloa. "We're only concerned with our work."
The Chocolate Manufacturers Association, based in Vienna, Va., at first said the industry was not aware of slavery, either. After Knight Ridder began inquiring about the use of slaves on Ivory Coast cocoa farms, however, the manufacturers association in late April acknowledged that a problem might exist and said it strongly condemned "these practices wherever they may occur."
In May, the association decided to expand an Ivory Coast farming program to include education on "the importance of children." And this month, the association agreed to fund a survey of child labor practices on Ivory Coast cocoa farms.
Ivorian officials have found scores of enslaved children from Mali and Burkina Faso and sent them home, and they have asked the International Labor Organization, a global workers' rights agency, to help them conduct a child labor survey that's expected to be completed this year.
But they continue to blame the problem on immigrant farmers from Mali and on world cocoa prices that have fallen sharply since 1996, from 67 cents a pound to 51 cents, forcing impoverished farmers to use the cheapest labor they can find.
Ivory Coast Agriculture Minister Alfonse Douaty calls child slavery a marginal "clandestine phenomenon" that exists on only a handful of the country's more than 600,000 cocoa and coffee farms.
"Those who do this are hidden, well hidden," said Douaty (Doo-AH-tee). He said his government is clamping down on child traffickers by beefing up border patrols and law enforcement, and running education campaigns to boost awareness of anti-slavery laws and efforts.
Douaty said child labor in Ivory Coast should not be called slavery, because the word conjures up images of chains and whips. He prefers the term "indentured labor."
Ivory Coast authorities ordered Le Gros to pay Aly and the other boys a total of 4.3 million African Financial Community francs (about $6,150) for their time as indentured laborers. Aly got 125,000 francs (about $180) for the 18 months he worked on the cocoa farm.
Aly bought himself the very thing the trader who enslaved him had promised: a bicycle. It has a light, a yellow horn and colorful bottle caps in the spokes. He rides it everywhere.
Aly helps his parents by selling vegetables in a nearby market, but he still doesn't understand why he was a slave.
When he was told that some American children spend nearly as much every year on chocolate as he was paid for six months' work harvesting cocoa beans, he replied without bitterness:
"I bless them because they are eating it."
Raghavan reported from Ivory Coast and Mali, Chatterjee from London, Chicago and Philadelphia. Researcher Tish Wells contributed to this report.
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Saturday, April 12, 2008
We Will NEVER Support Chocolate Made From Slave Labor!
Labels: slave labor Chocolate
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