You are on page 1of 7


Danielle Houltberg
Professor Ellis
English 102
07 December 2014
Free Chocolate
Most people enjoy chocolate. It is an enormously popular product traded and
consumed in great quantities all over the world. Those who enjoy it do so at their leisure
because they have the freedom to do so. Freedom can be defined in many different ways.
One definition, from, states freedom as Personal liberty, as opposed to
bondage or slavery. (Freedom) This states that free people, such as those who enjoy
chocolate, are at liberty to do so. The definition, however, also mentions freedom from
slavery. This aspect of freedom, sadly, does not apply to everyone. Some of the people
who do not enjoy such freedoms are children under eighteen years old working on the
cocoa plantations in places like the Ivory Coast from where most chocolate companies
source their cocoa.
Children working on these farms are often victims of child trafficking and most
are subject to dangerous working conditions. The ILO (International Labor Organization)
is an agency of the United Nations that aims to promote rights at work, encourage
decent employment opportunities, enhance social protection and strengthen dialogue on
work-related issues. (ILO) The problem known as Worst Form Child Labor, or WFCL,
is defined by the ILO, in short, as all forms of slavery, sale and trafficking of children,
work that is likely to harm the health, safety, or morale of children, debt bondage,
serfdom, forced work, and work that deprives children of an education (ILO). This is

opposed to socially acceptable child work which is generally a means of socialization,
skill building, and preparation for adulthood in many countries where children often
contribute to their household income (Berlan 1088). Some of the children working in the
cocoa industry may be considered child workers but it is most likely that the majority of
them are under WFCL. These children, often trafficked in, are working in extreme heat,
being underfed, are denied an education due to extremely long hours of work on the
plantations, working with dangerous tools without being trained, and are often not paid.
(Berlan 1088). Considering these conditions, one could certainly classify these children
as under WFCL. Perhaps the worst part about this issue is that the companies who have
the most resources available to them with which to combat these happenings are doing
nearly nothing to stop them. These companies are the biggest names in the chocolate
industry and include the big three: Nestle, Mars, and Hershey.
The chocolate moguls have billions at their disposal, yet WFCL is still rampant in
the cocoa industry. Steps have been taken to try to reduce or eliminate WFCL in the
cocoa sector, including a piece of legislature drawn up by the ILO called the HarkinEngel Protocol. This protocol, drawn up and signed in 2001, was originally intended to
eliminate WFCL in the cocoa industry by 2005. Those who signed were the biggest
names in chocolate production, including the big three, Mars, Hershey, and Nestle. The
protocol, however, was a voluntary agreement with no consequences for failure to
comply (United States). This is one reason why, after multiple deadline extensions, the
problem persists after more than 13 years of the signing of the document. The local
governments also play a role in preventing WFCL. In the Ivory Coast, specifically, there
are numerous laws and agencies that deal with preventing WFCL. According to a 2013

report by the United States Department of Labor, the government of the Ivory Coast
complies with the ILOs standards regarding what constitutes WFCL and has set a
minimum working age, a list of hazardous occupations from which children are
prohibited, and laws against forced labor and child trafficking. They have appointed
agencies that serve as labor-law enforcement along with the national police. They face
many challenges, though, that hinder their efforts. For instance, most of the offices of the
agencies tasked with labor-inspections are under-resourced so the inspectors, who already
lack full understanding of WFCL, cannot fulfill their duties properly. It is also the case
that none of the inspections are carried out in the agricultural sector, which is where the
cocoa plantations are, so it is not likely that the problem is being addressed in any
significant way on the home front (United States Department of Labor). Despite the
legislation in place locally and internationally, the problem persists and the chocolate
companies refuse to be held responsible despite their grand wealth of resources they
could use to prevent the problem.
Each of these companies acknowledges the problem and yet they havent done
much, if anything, to stop it. Each of the big three has a website and on each of these
websites one can find a section regarding acknowledgement of WFCL and the efforts that
company feels it has made to help reduce it in the cocoa industry. Most of the sections are
labeled something along the lines of corporate social responsibility and are full of stock
photos and flowery wording. Hersheys website, for instance, has a section devoted to
what they call shared goodness which involves three ideas: good business, better
life, and bright future. Each of these sections includes a picture of either raw cocoa
beans or a happy-looking black African child or adult worker, which is clearly intended to

send the message that their efforts are paying off (The Hershey Company). None of the
sections ever actually mention WFCL but they all deal with the ideas behind it and what
Hershey has done about it. They mention specifically, under good business how they
have helped increase cocoa farmers income by 70% over 3 years with a program
called CocoaLink (Groups claim). This is a program involving education about
agricultural practices through the use of cell phones provided to cocoa farmers. This
seems like a good program but it would have no impact on WFCL which has nothing to
do with how much money the farmers make. The farmers are often the ones who have the
child workers trafficked in and, when the kids dont get paid to work, it doesnt matter
how much money the farmers make because the kids see none of that. It could actually
increase the problem, as those farmers who do use trafficked children as laborers now
have more money to pay traffickers to abduct more children. These children should have
the freedom to be children without fear of abduction into forced labor, yet the websites
say nothing about them and the companies continue to do next to nothing to protect those
freedoms, despite having signed the protocol promising to do just that.
The WFCL problem within the cocoa industry has caught the attention of many
human rights groups and non-profit organizations. The 10 Campaign is one of those
groups. Their goal is to inform the public with facts about the issue and clearly outline the
demands they have of the American government and companies involved, as well as
consumers. Their goals include stronger regulations and laws put in place by the
government, financial support of Child Labour Monitoring Systems by the companies
themselves, and for consumers to make informed decisions when buying chocolate and
other products using cocoa (10 campaign). Another group collaboration led to a

documentary about the issue. In this documentary titled The Dark Side of Chocolate,
they went to the Ivory Coast and observed the problem firsthand. They went undercover
to get the real story behind the trafficking of children onto the cocoa plantations and
interviewed people involved, including some of the child victims. It was an incredibly
eye-opening and disturbing documentary showing real proof of kids getting taken from
bus stations and trafficked across borders into the Ivory Coast to serve as free childlaborers on the cocoa farms. They interviewed two boys who told their story about being
taken against their will to work on the cocoa farms and how they escaped and were
helped to get back home. The filmmakers even witnessed, for themselves, traffickers
smuggling kids across the border from Mali into the Ivory Coast. At one point, with help
from a local guide concerned with the problem, they talk to a boy who was taken. The
boy is crying and frightened because he doesnt know where he is or why and he wants to
return home. He was supposed to have been on a bus but, instead, was taken at the bus
station by a trafficker who took him by motorcycle down a back road into the Ivory
Coast. They send someone undercover to several different plantations, each of which has
child workers. Some of the child workers, despite what the farmers have to say about it,
are clearly trafficked as they do not speak or understand the local language. It is an
atrocity that goes ignored, as is apparent when the filmmakers talk to a guy who directs
the sales from the Ivory Coast to Nestle and he openly denies that any child workers exist
on any farm in the Ivory Coast. Also, despite their best efforts, none of the big-name
chocolate companies will view their footage or meet with them about the issue (The Dark
Side of Chocolate). These companies are obviously not as concerned with the children
being denied basic human freedoms as they are with their own freedom to profit from it.

This WFCL problem needs to be addressed. It is a complete violation of basic
human freedom and is especially atrocious because it is taking these freedoms away from
children. These kids deserve to have a childhood and an education, and they are being
denied that right when they are taken to these farms and forced to work in dangerous
conditions without being properly trained. This is harmful to both their future and their
physical wellness. Those companies who have the power and resources need to step up
and take responsibility for their part in this and properly address the issue. Freedom make
look different in these countries than it does in the United States but no human child
should be forced to endanger themselves and be denied a childhood and education.

Works Cited
10 Campaign. Demands. !0 Campaign, 2012. Web. 09 Dec. 2014.
Berlan, Amanda. Social Sustainability in Agriculture: An Anthropological Perspective
on Child Labour in Cocoa Production in Ghana. The Journal of development
studies 49.8 (2013): 1088-1100. Web. 09 December 2014.
"Freedom." Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc.. Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc.. 10 Dec. 2014.
Groups claim Hershey chocolate is not so sweet for child laborers. EHS today 4.10
(2011): 21. Web. 09 December 2014.
International Labor Organization. International Labor Organization, 2014. Web.
09 Dec. 2014.
The Dark Side of Chocolate. Dir. Miki Mistrati & U. Roberto Romano. Bastard Film and
TV, 2010. Film.
The Hershey Company. Corporate Social Responsibility.
2014. Web. 09 Dec. 2014.
United States Department of Labor. Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor-Cote
dIvoire. United States Department of Labor, 2013. Web. 09 Dec. 2014.
United States. Chocolate Manufacturers Association. Harkin-Engel Protocol. Chocolate
Manufacturers Association, 19 September 2001. Web. 09 Dec. 2014.