With the Easter holiday approaching, many U.S. children and their parents will celebrate with chocolate bunnies and other chocolate-covered treats. But for children in West Africa, Easter will simply be another desolate day of harvesting cocoa, the main ingredient in chocolate, under inexcusable conditions.
AFT has launched a campaign to stop the importation of child-harvested cocoa beans or chocolate made from them. You can take action. Click here to send a message to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack urging him to ensure chocolate products Americans eat are not spoiled by the bitterness of child labor.
More than half of the world’s supply of cocoa is harvested in the two West African nations of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast). Growing and harvesting the crop depends upon the labor of 3.6 million children caught in the worst forms of child labor, according to the International Cocoa Verification Board (ICVB). Children must climb trees with machetes to cut down cocoa pods. They handle and apply dangerous pesticides, burn brush and carry back-breaking loads, ICVB says. ICVB is non-profit, multi-stakeholder organization that monitors child and forced labor in cocoa production.
Their hazardous work in the cocoa trees also prevents these children from attending school. Nearly a quarter of the working children in Côte d’Ivoire have never been to school, AFT says. Among those who have attended school, 7.6 percent stop going after they go to work on the cocoa farms. Overall, just 14.8 percent of the child cocoa laborers are literate.
In a letter last month to Vilsack, AFT President Randi Weingarten said “urgent action is needed if we are to realize the International Labor Organization goal of eliminating the worst forms of child labor by 2016.” Cocoa beans from Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire already are on the U.S. Department of Labor’s list of goods produced by child labor. Read the letter here.
Researchers at American University report that slave traders are trafficking boys, between ages 12 and 16, taking them from their home countries and selling them to cocoa farmers in Cote d’Ivoire. Most of the boys come from neighboring Mali, where agents hang around bus stations looking for children that are alone or are begging for food. They lure the kids to travel to Cote d’Ivoire with them, and then the traffickers sell the children to farmers in need of cheap labor.