Child Labour in West African Cocoa

Celebrate Cacao Festival

Yesterday Chicago University issued its five year report to the US Department of labor regarding child labour in West African cocoa production. It’s shocking to say the least – 1.6 million children in child labour in the main West African cocoa producing countries of the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Cameroon and Nigeria.

We have never used West African cocoa, largely for reasons of taste but also because even when we started in 2006 we knew of child labour in the Ivory Coast in particular.

Not only are 1.6 million children involved in child labour on cocoa farms, but the situation has got worse in the last five years, not better!

The cocoa produced by this region ends up for the most part with the world’s largest confectionery manufacturers that you can find on any supermarket shelf. This is of course not where we position ourself and why we are so careful with our sourcing. 

If you have never seen it please watch Miki Mistrati’s documentary the ‘Dark Side of Chocolate’. It shows that not only is there an issue of child labour, but also child trafficking – in some cases sold by their families who are too poor to eat, sometimes stolen, taken 1000s of miles to work on cocoa farms, not paid, often hungry, using machetes and pesticides, and beaten if they try to escape. Much of this is brushed under the carpet at government level and the industry turns a blind eye – not our problem, we don’t own the cocoa farms.

This weekend Diana took part in an International Panel discussing how to address sustainability issues in the chocolate industry. The panel discussion was organised by our friend Lyn Lockwood, a long time campaigner for sustainability in the chocolate industry. 

However, the discussion that really caught my eye was the interview before us with documentary maker Miki Mistrati and Human rights lawyer Terry Collingsworth.

Terry has been trying to take both Nestle and Cargill to the US Supreme Court for 15 years. Though teams of lawyers have tried to stop the case it is finally getting a hearing in December, and it will be a big one as US human rights laws could be permanently changed by the judgement.

Terry pulls no punches in naming names and what he thinks of their approach, so please do watch it.

Following the interview Diana participated in an international sustainability panel discussion and you can see that debate below.

The real message behind this is that all West African cocoa is implicated in child labour. 1.6 million children implicated – in 2020 – and it’s increasing! Shocking and unbelievable.

You can download the University of Chicago report here… DOWNLOAD REPORT

Understanding long Food chains are really important. In our quest for ever cheaper food and confectionery there is usually someone at the end who is exploited. In the case of cocoa it is sadly often children and the situation is getting worse not better.