Eyes on Cote D’Ivoire
In conjunction with coffee and oil exports, cocoa is keeping Cote D’Ivoire financially afloat and aiding the country in paying interest on external debts in excess of $11 billion, according to The World Factbook.
Cote D’Ivoire is on the Tier 2 watch list for the third consecutive year, a destination country for incoming slaves according to the State Department’s 2010 Trafficking in Persons Report. Farmers in the cocoa nation use slave labor to offset low selling prices, purchasing young men from trafficked from Mali, Burkina Faso, and Ghana, according to the report.
Two-thirds of the world’s cocoa, two-fifths of it coming from Cote D’Ivoire, is consumed by North America and Western Europe, according to 2005 The Cocoa Industry and Child Labour report.
Political unrest, inadequate infrastructure, and debt have created a nest for slavery in Cote D’Ivoire. The government has not been stable for years, with multiple recent coup attempts and now a bloody battle for the presidency. Traffickers and buyers are safe from detection and consequence while the government deepens wounds that need to heal.
Many cocoa farms are inaccessible by road, as shown by the BBC documentary, further preventing accountability to anti-slavery laws. Without government leadership, poverty prevails in driving young men and women into slavery and horrible working conditions. Children from surrounding countries are drawn to the possibility of work in the countless Cote D’Ivoire cocoa farms, some unaware of the slavery that awaits them.
Our initial reaction to news that our cocoa passed through the hands of a slave might be to boycott chocolate altogether. This is not a solution, however, for two reasons.
Firstly, since slave labor is a result of low chocolate prices, consumer boycotts are counterproductive. Secondly, Professor Kevin Bales, another voice in the above mentioned BBC Documentary, revealed that widespread use of slave labor in the cocoa fields of Cote D’Ivoire creates difficulty in making a “slave free guarantee,” especially as cocoa enters the global market and its origins are lost.
Chocolate lovers can affect the global market by purchasing slave-free chocolate. Consumers have the power of persuasion on their side because chocolate producers pay attention to purchasing trends. When the cocoa industry understands its consumers are committed to slave-free product, they will be motivated toward change.
As for Cote D’Ivoire, most of us will not set foot on its cocoa-growing soil in our lifetime. After reading this article, you may be more informed and aware, but knowledge that sits in the brain and never reaches the will becomes stale. Cote D’Ivoire has a place in your life now, whether suffering Ivoirians and slaves move you to vote differently, or whether you decide to study economic development to aid in restoring West Africa. There is no bulleted take-away list, but now you have the opportunity to ask, what can I do? A good place to start might be making a commitment to buy slave-free chocolate now that you know the truth.
If you would like to take action, you can buy slave-free chocolate by visiting our store. (still need to set up vendors)
Amy Ritter is studying international journalism at Biola University in Southern CA and has written extensively on the issue of child slave labor and has interned with Hope & Rescue, helping raise awareness of trafficking.
The following resources were used in the writing of this article:
Future of Africa Plan
Cote D’Ivoire Country Profile
Child Exploitation in Cote D’Ivoire
CIA World Factbook
Trafficking in Persons Report
Slavery: A Global Investigation
The World of Child Labor
West Africa Summary, Barry Callebaut
Fighting forces abuse, threaten civilians
Human Rights and Development
The Cost of Coercion: A 2009 Report
World Bank Profile: Cote D’Ivoire