Chocolate Slavery: Slave Labor in the Cocoa Industry

Chocolate's Dark Side: Child Slaves on the Ivory Coast

A small child hauls a 13 pound sack of cocoa beans on his slight frame, laboring through the heat of the day. Along the Ivory Coast in Africa, approximately 43% of the world’s cocoa beans are being harvested by slave labor. The children (some under the age of eleven years) are gathered from the impoverished streets of Mali, and are sent to work on cocoa plantations. The majority of the chocolate industry’s slaves are young boys between the ages of 12-16 years. Desperate parents sell their children for a few dollars, or the children are simply snatched up from the slums in the poorest areas of Mali. Up to 15,000 children are forced into hard labor, gathering the raw material for first world countries’ chocolate bars.

Cacao Trees Provide the Raw Material for Chocolate

Cocoa bean pods ripen on a cacao tree.
Cocoa bean pods ripen on a cacao tree. | Source

A Case of Child Abuse on a Plantation

At the age of twelve, Aly Diabate1 doesn’t know what chocolate is, or even tastes like, as he harvests the almond-sized cocoa beans from the cacao trees on the plantation. He was tricked into slavery on the false promise of a bicycle and a yearly salary of $150, to help his impoverished parents in Mali. The child agreed and soon began working for the plantation boss, known as “Le Gros” (the Big Man). He has never seen a bicycle and his family has never seen the promised money – Aly spent his days trying to avoid the beatings from overseers on the plantation.

The plantation Aly worked on was a large, 494 acre cocoa farm which held 18 other boys as slaves. The children worked with the rising and setting sun, and were locked into a windowless, small room at nightfall. Dinner was often bananas, and there were no beds to sleep on. If the boys needed to use the toilet, they had to resort to tin cans left behind by Le Gros. Aly still bears the scars from whippings with bicycle chains and cacao tree branches, which were used to beat the boys who did not work fast enough to satisfy the overseers.

Les Gros (whose real name is Lenikpo Yeo) states the boys’ statements are false with regard to his plantation. He claims he fed, clothed, and appropriately treated the youngsters on his plantation. He does admit that an overseer beat a boy who ran away, though he never officially sanctioned the beating.

The boy that Les Gros admits was beaten was the one to free all the other boys. He escaped once, was caught and beaten, and then escaped again. The second time he was successful, and young Oumar Kone managed to reach the local police force. The police interceded on the behalf of the young boys, who were found in an undernourished and miserable state. One boy was found lying in his own excrement, covered in cacao leaves and suffering from a beating. Aly was the youngest boy on the plantation at the age of 13 years – the boys were freed and sent back to Mali.

Les Gros was imprisoned for 24 days and then released. Child battery receives a prison sentence of 5-10 years, but as the children have all been repatriated to Mali, there are no witnesses to give details on the abuse that occurred on the plantation.

1Sudarsan Raghavan and Sumana Chatterjee, Knight Ridder Newspapers, June 24, 2001

Jobs on a Cocoa Plantation

Applying pesticide

Picking pods

Opening pods to get the beans

Carrying heavy sacks of cocoa beans

Tools used to harvest cocoa beans.
Tools used to harvest cocoa beans. | Source

A Protocol to End Chocolate Slavery

Human trafficking and child abuse are major problems along the west coast of Africa. Cocoa plantations are so notorious for the use of forced child labor (and forced adult labor) that U.S. Representative Eliot Engel and Senator Tom Harkin created a protocol to end child slavery and initiate labeling for products that are produced “slave free.” A joint committee was formed and called the International Cocoa Initiative, with the aim to have a standard of certification for slave-free cocoa by 2005. Major chocolate manufacturers (including Nestle and Cargill) signed the protocol, volunteering to end the use of child labor to avoid legislation against the slave plantations on the Cote d’Ivoire. The goal was not met, and the protocol has still not had any effect on reducing child slavery along the Ivory Coast.

In July 2005, a lawsuit was waged against Nestle, Cargill, and Archer Daniels Midland. Filed on the behalf of Malian children who are sold into slavery, the suit alleged children worked 12-14 hour days with no pay, were subjected to physical abuse, and received little food or sleep.

In August 2005, Nestle filed a motion to require all child slaves to reveal their names, removing the protection of anonymity (and subjecting the children to potential retaliatory violence once their names were lodged in the complaint).

The defendants in the case (Nestle, Cargill, and Archer Daniels Midland) filed for a dismissal of the entire lawsuit. In a 2006 rebuttal, the International Labor Rights Fund filed a declaration in opposition of dismissal. The case is currently waiting on a court ruling regarding the motion to dismiss the entire suit.

Survey of Child Labor on Cocoa Farms

The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture conducted a survey on child labor on West African cocoa plantations in 2002: 153,000 children were found applying pesticides to trees without any form of protection, only 34% of child workers attended school (in contrast to 64% of children who did not work on cocoa farms), and 40% of the child laborers were girls. 64% of the children on the farms were under the age of 14.

How are Children Purchased for Slave Labor?

Some might question why any parent would sell a child into slavery. An insight into the situation comes from the impoverished country of Burkina Faso, north of the Ivory Coast. A farmer recounts his offers to the parents of children in his old hometown village:

"When I need workers I go back to my village in Burkina Faso and tell my relatives that I want people to help me on my cocoa farm. If they have children who are still in the village, they will send them with me. I settle on a price with their fathers for each child and on the number of years they will stay. The father then sends them to my farm or, if they are too small to find their way, my brother goes to get them. I pay about 100,000 CFA (ca £100) when the child is older, and 70,000 CFA (ca £70) when the child is small"

- The Cocoa Industry in West Africa: A History of Exploitation. Anti-Slavery International, 2004

Some of the children do return to their village with money once the term has ended. The family and neighbors benefit from the money greatly. While many children fall into the entrapment of slavery, the few who return have a great pay-off. Having a child return with cash could be compared to winning the lottery, though the cost of playing is in human lives and not money. For desperate families in need of food and basic medical care, the few children who return with money makes the gamble seem worthwhile.

Where do the child slaves come from?

show route and directions
A markerBurkina Faso -
Burkina Faso
[get directions]

Many children are brought from Burkina Faso, where many families are impoverished and in desperate need of cash.

B markerMali -
[get directions]

The majority of young, child slaves come from the country of Mali.

C markerTogo -
[get directions]

Togo is another source of the Chocolate Industry's child slaves.

D markerBenin -
[get directions]

Children from Benin are sometimes sold into slavery on Cocoa Plantations.

E markerCote d'Ivoire -
Côte d'Ivoire
[get directions]

The Ivory Coast produces approximately half of the world's cocoa supply.

Main Street in Burkina Faso

Rue Principal in Burkina Faso. Many children in used for slave labor in the cocoa industry come from this country.
Rue Principal in Burkina Faso. Many children in used for slave labor in the cocoa industry come from this country. | Source

A Chain of Blame

How does slavery continue to exist in today's world? The blame for chocolate's slave labor is passed off from one entity to the next. The plantation farmers blame the low price of cocoa, which pushes them to obtain cheap (or free) labor. The government of the Ivory Coast blames the foreign countries which supply the slaves, and who also run many of the Cocoa Plantations. Chocolate manufacturers like Nestle claim they rely on the cocoa suppliers to provide a slave-free raw material, while the suppliers state they hold no control over the farms where the cocoa comes from. The Ivory coast's government is politically unstable, which makes passing and enforcing regulations difficult.

Of course, there is the end-user: first world consumers who purchase chocolate as a luxury item. Many customers have absolutely no idea that their chocolate bar was made from materials gathered by a maltreated child slave.

Chocolate Consumption: A Poll

What Type of Chocolate Do You Purchase?

  • I didn't know about child slavery and chocolate: I buy any brand of chocolate.
  • I only purchase Fair Trade chocolate products.
  • I purchase organic chocolate products.
  • I USED to buy any brand of chocolate, but I will make sure the product is Fair Trade from now on!
See results without voting

Slave Free Chocolate

How can a consumer avoid purchasing slavery-tainted chocolate? Without an official label to identify slave-free cocoa products, the easiest mark to look for is a "Fair Trade" label on the chocolate bar. This is not an absolute guarantee against slavery, but the higher prices paid to the cocoa farmers on Fair Trade chocolate increases the chances that the cocoa was harvested through hired hands and not slave labor.

Organic chocolate is another good bet: organic farms are subject to more thorough inspection and regulation, reducing the chances that child slave labor is employed on the plantation.

In fact, it might be a good idea to check for a Fair Trade seal on coffee and cotton products, too: these crops are grown alongside cocoa in Africa, and also rely on slave labor to provide cheap raw materials for the first world market.

Nestlé Investigates Its Cocoa Supply Chain

The Fair Labor Association conducted an investigation of Nestlé's supply chain in late 2011. 20 local and international experts mapped the supply chain in the Ivory Coast, and mapped the stakeholders in the supply chain. Nestlé was fully supportive of the investigation, and the Vice President of the chocolate company stated that there is "no way" their company can abide by the child slavery practices used in West Africa.

The final report of the supply chain indicated that:

  • Nestlé purchases 10% of the world's cocoa supply, and 37% of that cocoa comes from the Ivory Coast.
  • Nestlé has purchases cocoa from one fair-trade supplier and has indirect relationships with 35 other suppliers.
  • 20 cooperatives and 2 cooperative unions were visited by the investigators.
  • Young workers (including children) were interviewed during each investigation.
  • Children are involved in pulling weeds, cutting with large machetes, digging shallow holes, and carrying bags of cocoa.
  • 12% of adult cocoa plantation workers are indebted.
  • 25% of child laborers were coerced by their parents to work on a cocoa farm.
  • A lack of school infrastructure combined with low wages leads to an increase of child labor.
  • The most common injuries are from machetes.

Child Slavery in the Chocolate Trade, Part 1

Child Slavery in the Chocolate Trade, Part 2

Child Slavery in the Chocolate Trade, Part 3

Child Slavery in the Chocolate Trade, Part 4

Child Slavery in the Chocolate Trade, Part 5

Comments 102 comments

Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

Oh my! How tragic! I had no idea that this was going on in the harvesting of the cocoa beans to make chocolate. Will DEFINITELY check for organic or free trade when purchasing in the future. Thank you for this informative hub. Votes up and will tweet, FB and share with followers.

Kris Heeter profile image

Kris Heeter 4 years ago from Indiana

This is an excellent hub. No many people realize that some of the common products we buy, especially around Valentine's day are the products of slave labor, including children.

I'll link out to your new hub here from my Valentine's "shop to benefit a cause" hub (promoting fair trade gift ideas, including chocolate!)

Scribenet profile image

Scribenet 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

This is truly tragic. Even more so when there are huge companies concerned claiming nothing is wrong.

It is painfully obvious this still goes on in the world and big corporations look the other way. Looks like lack of freedom is a disease in this world of ours; money the root cause :-(

Maralexa profile image

Maralexa 4 years ago from Vancouver, Canada and San Jose del Cabo, Mexico

This very difficult subject is extremely well handled in your hub. Thank you Leah.

Most of the chocolate sold in the US (sorry to say this folks) is NOT guaranteed slave-free. What the big companies pay for their chocolate is as little as possible. The exceptions to this include 'boutique' chocolate houses that buy directly from the plantation and actually invest in the community where the plantation is situated.

Don't let this stop you from buying fine dark chocolate -- just don't buy from the big produces. Buy from companies that state clearly their chocolate is "Fair Trade".

Thank you, thank you for writing this article.

leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

Peggy, it is really tragic. The chocolate producers (like Hershey, Nestle, etc.) blame the cocoa suppliers and the cocoa suppliers blame the farmers, and the farmers blame the low prices. Looking for a fair trade mark on chocolate is about the only way to help stop this practice, though without legislation against slave-produced cocoa, there is no guarantee.

leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

It is very sad, Kris - cotton, coffee, and cocoa commonly exploit child slaves to obtain materials for first world nations at a low cost. It is a horrible practice!

leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

It is a very difficult situation when the big chocolate companies block legislation against childhood slavery. Money is definitely the driving force, Scribenet.

leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

I came across an article describing the life of a young boy on one of the cocoa plantations, and it broke my heart. The majority of the chocolate sold in the US does come from the Ivory Coast and slave labor is commonly used - you are right, Maralexa. A lot of our chocolate comes from little children living in horrible conditions, without pay and proper care and nutrition. It is really up to the consumer to investigate, but without a "slave free" label on chocolate products, there is no way to absolutely guarantee the cocoa was not produced on a slave plantation.

Shame on the big corporations for ignoring the protocol, which called for a slave free label.

alipuckett profile image

alipuckett 4 years ago

Wow. This is very enlightening.

leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

Living in a first world country, we rarely see where our products really come from. I fervently hope that more people pay attention to fair trade labels and fight for the end of slave practices in these industries!

Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 4 years ago from San Francisco

It's really horrifying to think that slavery is still so prevalent today- and it's even more disturbing to know that it's tied to something I buy a LOT of. In addition to going with Fair Trade and organic bars and candies, I recommend considering chocolate producers who work directly with growers- they can't always afford to get special certification, but they really make sure things are done right: from bean to bar.

leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

Very, very true Simone - some of the smaller, specialty chocolate companies work directly with the cocoa farms. They might not have a special label, but those smaller cooperative efforts do not generally rely on slave labor.

MP50 4 years ago

Slavery of any kind in today's World is totally unacceptable, especially in the case of children.

I refuse to eat chocolate, because of the way it is manufactured using slave labour.

Why can't the Goverments of the World step in and do something about this?

Interesting and upsetting Hub about the children, voted up and socially shared.

Juliek958 profile image

Juliek958 4 years ago from Norman, Oklahoma

The biggest abusers of paying those less than a dollar a day are chocolate, coffee, tea and sugar. I only buy fair trade of those 4 things and I try to buy fair trade of all products whenever possible. People might look at their cup of Folgers, or Kraft products and dare I say....Hershey's chocolate entirely differently if they knew what was behind it. As long as consumers continue to turn a blind eye, corporations will continue to find the cheapest way to make their products.

Awesome hub. Thank you.

Princess of Wands profile image

Princess of Wands 4 years ago from Tenerife, Canary Islands

Excellent hubpage highlighting a very important subject - I was aware of these problems but not everyone is aware and this hubpage certainly explains it in simple and accurate detail. Great that organisations such as Fair Trade exist to give these hard working people a living and a better life. xx

cardelean profile image

cardelean 4 years ago from Michigan

Wow, first let me say how did I miss this one Leah? A very well deserved hub of the day! This really puts a different light on our vacation last summer to Hershey's Chocolate World. It is a sad testament to the fact that money really does rule the world. These are just unacceptable practices and as stated above, although people may have a vague sense that things of this nature are still taking place, being so far removed from it makes it a "non issue" to many people. Thank you so much for telling this story.

Vanderleelie profile image

Vanderleelie 4 years ago from New Brunswick, Canada

Excellent hub with insight into an industry that's exploitative and corrupt. No more chocolate for me, unless I can be assured that the source is practising "Fair Trade." Perhaps a world-wide boycott would be more effective!

tiagoz profile image

tiagoz 4 years ago

Wow it`s so sad. I totatly agree with Vanderleelie!

Great hub leahlefler, this one is by Jennifer Madison and it`s about the same thing, it`s good too:

pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 4 years ago from sunny Florida

I learned so much. This tore at my heart as I read it...families locked into poverty that would cause them to consider selling children is almost beyond belief. I had no idea!!! Shame on me.

Well done hub...I will definitely select my chocolate more carefully beginning today.

leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

MP50, it is horrifying. There are sources for slave-free chocolate. If the chocolate comes from anywhere other than Ghana or the Ivory Coast, it is likely to be slave-free. Ivory Coast chocolate is highly suspect, though, because most of it is procured through the use of slaves. There's a list of "safe" chocolate companies from:

leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

Juliek, it is a shame that there is no labeling for products to indicate they are slave-free. Most consumers would avoid products produced by slave labor, but the lack of adequate labeling makes it more difficult for people to determine what has been made by slaves or by free, paid workers. Fair Trade is the best bet (and organic chocolate, along with small-name companies that produce their own product).

leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

Fair Trade is the best program out there, to date, though there is still no absolute guarantee against slave labor. I would rather pay a few dollars more for my product, knowing that it was produced by paid laborers. Princess of Wands, I hope more awareness means an end to this vile practice!

leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

Cardelean, it is disturbing, isn't it? I used to buy the cheap Halloween candy and not have a clue that the cheap chocolate bars were produced off the backs of slaves. I will buy non-chocolate candies for next year. Hershey is one of the few companies that appears to be voluntarily cooperating with an initiative to end child slavery in the cocoa industry... they released a press release on January 31, 2012 stating they will start marketing a product which is slave-labor free. I just hope they make good on their promise (the press release is here:

leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

Boycotts would definitely be effective. The awareness needs to grow, because anyone who observed small children toiling under such horrid circumstances would NEVER buy a slave-produced chocolate bar again. I am still appalled that we are still discussing the issue of slavery in the 21st century - thanks for the comment, Vanderleelie!

leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

Thanks, tiagoz- I'll check it out!

Peanutritious profile image

Peanutritious 4 years ago from Cheshire, UK

This is disgusting but sadly not that surprising. I always try to buy fair trade. I've shared this to my facebook page. A well deserved 'hub of the day'.

leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

It is so easy to take the luxuries of living in a first world country for granted - I agree, pstraubie, I can't imagine being in a place where I had that kind of decision forced upon me. Families in need of medicine, food, and shelter gamble on the bet that their children will return in a few years with lots of cash. A few do, but many do not and are simply sold into slavery.

leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

Those cheap clothes and chocolate have to come from somewhere - Free Trade cocoa is the way to go for chocolate products, and I try to keep an eye on where my clothes come from, too. I knew about the chocolate slavery, but had no idea about the cotton slavery. It is a shame that we still have these practices occurring in this day and age!

DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 4 years ago from Iowa

Excellent hub, Leah. Thanks for raising our awareness of this issue. And congratulations on a very well-deserved hub of the day.

leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

Thanks, Deborah! I really hope to raise awareness so that consumers have a say in who makes their chocolate: I'd definitely prefer a fairly paid worker, so I buy Fair Trade.

Jason Marovich profile image

Jason Marovich 4 years ago from United States

The pen is still mightier than the sword, I see. Good. Very enlightening hub, and I hope it reaches a million pair of eyes, so the world can see for itself the tyranny that currently menaces many people of Africa.

leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

Jason, I hope your words come true - that millions of people will realize what is happening along the west coast of Africa and refuse to purchase chocolate that has been procured by slaves!

ChristinS profile image

ChristinS 4 years ago from Midwest

how utterly sad and horrible that this happens so prevalently. I am enlightened now and will definitely make wiser choices in the future with cocoa as I have previously with coffee and other products. Up and socially shared.

leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

Thanks, Christin - I had heard about coffee in the past, but only recently learned about the cocoa plantations in Africa. I truly hope this practice ends!

Melovy profile image

Melovy 4 years ago from UK

Very interesting hub. I already buy organic chocolate because of pesticide residue in non-organic, and I buy fair trade or from small local producers because it’s important to me that the farmers get a fair deal - but I had no idea this was going on.

Thank you for highlighting a very important issue and congratulations on a well deserved Hub of the Day.

Voted up and sharing everywhere.

cardelean profile image

cardelean 4 years ago from Michigan

I'm glad to hear about Hershey getting on board with this, or at least in the beginning stages. I am in the process of writing about our trip to Hershey and was feeling a bit guilty. Maybe I'll add a bit about this at the end. Thanks!

leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

Thanks, Melovy! I have to admit, I bought chocolate without a care before I heard about the slavery issue. The organic chocolate is more expensive, but worth every penny to ensure it comes from honest, paid labor and not off the backs of exploited children. Avoiding pesticide residue is another great reason to buy organic - the organic farms are more closely monitored because they have to adhere to certain regulations, so the chances of slavery at those plantations are very low.

leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

I am pleased to see Hershey stepping up to the bar on this one - hopefully they'll follow through! We actually want to visit Hershey, too, Cara, and I hope Hershey will have eliminated child labor from their products: it would make me much more willing to visit their parks/buy their products!

mary615 profile image

mary615 4 years ago from Florida

I had read before about this problem of slave labor. I will be more careful about purchasing chocolate from now on. Thanks for all of this great info. congrats for Hub of the Day! This Hub deserves it! I voted this UP etc.

John Sarkis profile image

John Sarkis 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

Hi leahlefler, I'd have to say that this is hands down one of my personal favorite "hub of the day." Very insightful and intuitive article.

Take care


leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

Good for you, Mary - refusing to purchase chocolate affiliated with slavery is one way to help end this practice!

leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

Thank you, John - every time I look at my own two small boys, I shudder at the thought of child slavery. I simply cannot imagine what the children go through on the plantations - it is absolutely horrible.

arusho profile image

arusho 4 years ago from University Place, Wa.

This is great information. I didn't know about chocolate slavery. Chocolate seems so harmless, but this is sad. I will buy fair trade or organic chocolate from now on!

leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

It is shocking when you learn of it, isn't it? I never suspected slavery was still alive in this day and age. Thanks, arusho - and I hope you indulge in some fair trade chocolate soon!

expats profile image

expats 4 years ago from UK

It's just like the situation in 'sweat shops' where garments are made using virtual slave labour. How on earth children can be bought and sold in this day and age is a mystery.

jacqui2011 profile image

jacqui2011 4 years ago from Leicester, United Kingdom

Congratulation on a well deserving Hub of the Day. This is shocking to think that little children are being used as slaves. They work so hard for little or no wage at all. Thank you for highlighting this. It is an excellent and well written hub. I had no idea that this was going on and I will ensure that in the future I will only buy Fair Trade Products. Voted up - interesting/useful.

leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

Expats - I once saw a documentary on child labor in Asia, where a lot of garment factories reside. The parents were told they would be paid, but of course the checks never arrived. It is such a horrible practice.

jacqui, I agree, it is shocking. At least the Fair Trade items ensure the farmers are paid enough for their products to pay their hired labor - I don't mind paying a little more for my chocolate bar!

syzygyastro profile image

syzygyastro 4 years ago from Vancouver, Canada

This is an important article in the context of the current economic malaise of the world that is drifting toward and ever increasing reliance on very cheap labor or outright slavery not only in Africa, but in many parts of Asia too. We might well have a hard look at Walmart and how they treat their "employees" in China and other parts of Asia. Nor are we free of slavery in the developed world as there are underground and illegal production facilities that run on slave labor. We really have to have to have a hard look at all industries that force people to work for nothing or next to nothing.

In Africa, the chocolate industry is not the only place of slavery. It is also rife in the diamond mining regions where miners are forced to work in horrid and dangerous conditions for 12 to 18 hours and then have to forage for food after the work day. Africa is a country rich in resources but the rulers for the most part are morally bankrupt. Africa is in need of a revolution as the situation existing now is beyond redemption. Nothing that is being done now is totally effective.

Good Article as it inspired me to write this and vote it up.

waleeds profile image

waleeds 4 years ago from Islamabad,Pakistan

congrats Leahlefler on being chosen one of your hubs as hub of the day. it's really sad to see these children working as slaves. you really highlighted one of the most common yet least notable facets of the society. even i held myself to be blamed sometimes but i can't do much about it. however, one of us has to step up and take action against this catch-22. since it's our sole responsibility to wipe out this epidemic disease all throughout the globe.

thanks for sharing such a useful hub. Voted up for an awesome attempt to present something which cannot be easily presented.

leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

syzygyastro, when my husband proposed he did so with an Alaskan "blood free" diamond. That sealed the deal! Diamond mining is another cruel, slavery ridden enterprise in Africa. The diamond in my engagement ring is emblazoned with a small polar bear to indicate it is a "blood free" diamond. I hope you write articles on this and other social travesties that occur right under our noses.

Many people cry for an end to governmental regulation of industry, but a completely laissez-faire approach often leads to human rights abuses (child labor was heavily used in the USA until laws were made against it).

leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

Waleeds, one of the biggest things we can do as citizens of the world is to refuse to purchase items made with slave labor. Fair trade is a good first step in that endeavor. Sadly, corrupt governments and deep poverty causes desperate situations in many third world countries.

StephanieBCrosby profile image

StephanieBCrosby 4 years ago from New Jersey

I am so glad you wrote such a polished article about such a horrible practice. I have noticed more and more products putting "Fair Trade" on their labels and buy them for the products I use most. But I find they are really only prominent at health food stores and not regular super markets.

snakeslane profile image

snakeslane 4 years ago from Canada

Thank you leahlefler for this disturbing 'heads up' about the realities of chocolate production. Timing is key to reaching people, you couldn't have picked a better time with Valentine's Day and Easter coming up.

I will definitely remember this Hub the next time I decide to buy chocolate. Regards, snakeslane

leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

The number of Fair Trade products does seem to be increasing. I hope the pressure from consumers continues to drive the big corporations to verify their products are slave-free! Thanks for the comment, Stephanie!

leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

My son's school recently had a fundraiser for Easter chocolate and it struck me as horribly ironic that the children in this country were gaining benefit from cocoa gathered by little children in another country, who often receive no education. I am going to try to find a fundraiser company that uses slave-free (fair trade or organic) chocolate!

American_Choices profile image

American_Choices 4 years ago from USA


This is a subject that must be told. And you told the whole story. We as consumers must know these details. The greatest power in commerce is the consumer.

Sadly, much of the chocolate we buy has corporate headquarters in other countries. I learned about the slave labor when I was researching the big chocolate and where the corporate headquarters were located. I was gravely saddened to have learned this but had hoped since it was reported and suits were filed that these tragic events had stopped.

Excellent job on showcasing the channel of blame and how we as consumers must openly state our dismay.

leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

American Choices, sadly the lawsuits have stalled as Nestle and Cargill have filed a motion to have the entire case dismissed. We'll see what happens to the lawsuit in the long run, but hopefully consumer pressure can push companies to do the right thing and check their supply chain to be sure child slaves are not a part of it.

steveamy profile image

steveamy 4 years ago from Florida

So...that candy bar one eats at lunch is a lot more expensive than we thought....a valuable hub.

miss_jkim profile image

miss_jkim 4 years ago

All I can say is this is unsettling and very sad.

It is reminiscent of the slave trade from the 1700 - 1800's, when the Ivory Coast of Africa shipped their human cargo to the Caribbean islands and the shores of the Americas.

Makes a powerful statement as to what some human beings will do to their own people for money and power.

I will certainly think twice before I indulge in any chocolate.

snakeslane profile image

snakeslane 4 years ago from Canada

Good plan. Schools are often the best places to start with attitude changing initiatives. Thanks again for the new awareness your work has brought to me. I did some digging and discovered my favorite chocolate maker 'Lindt' has many initiatives including being a member of the World Cocoa Foundation, enlists the high profile Bill Gates as a supporter. There are glowing reports from the Lindt company about its support for African cocoa farming communities and its program for tracking the source of its beans 'Ghana Traceable' and supporting sustainable tree crops, but falls short when it comes to Fair Trade apparently because the source is so limited? So many questions.

B. Leekley profile image

B. Leekley 4 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

Your hub is outstanding investigative reporting. I'm sharing on Twitter and Facebook.

guyd 4 years ago

Thank you for this. The more info we can get out about the consequences of corporate greed, the harder it will be for them to get away with it! Boycott is a powerful tool that we all can participate in. No more Nestle, Cargill, nor Archer Midland products for me. The same type of thing is happening in China, most notably, abuse by APPLE computer manufactoring. Check it out.

syzygyastro profile image

syzygyastro 4 years ago from Vancouver, Canada

Organize and buy local. That way we can police directly what is made with fair trade and what is not and cut out the slavery once and for all. "Well", one may ask, " where will I get chocolate and coffee then?" We have the means to grow all of these locally provided we construct the necessary contained environments. The trouble with attempting to police developing world slavery and indeed, home grown is effectively similar to attempting to nail fog to the ground. Just don't support anything that is questionable. A good producer is transparent and welcomes investigation. Another idea is to build some kind of green tourist industry where people go to process chocolate for fun and relaxation, completing the whole process and then enjoying the fruits of their labors.

Nomascus concolor profile image

Nomascus concolor 4 years ago from A Country called Earth

Very moving documentary. Here, where we have everything, money seems to preocupate us so much. Sometimes, I would not buy fairtrade products because of the price, but I think it is important to make the right choice. This sends a message to the industry. There is a lot more work to be done to make sure child slavery is stopped, but this will not happen if we do not send a strong consistent message:"We care".

Larry Fields profile image

Larry Fields 4 years ago from Northern California

Voted up and more. Outstanding hub, Leah.

The taste components of chocolate and carob overlap to a small degree. If you can get past the 'imitation chocolate' image, carob has a taste that's good in its own right. It's an alternative worth considering. You can find carob powder and carob bars in most health food stores. If you make your own carob desserts from scratch, be sure to use real butter.

leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

Miss jkim, it is terrible that the American slaves came from the Ivory Coast, and slavery is STILL endemic to that portion of the world. The cheap goods we have in the United States are a direct result of low paid overseas labor, and in some cases, actual slavery. Coffee, cocoa, and cotton have a large slave labor component.

leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

That is really good to know about Lindt. Schools are usually very amenable to supporting social initiatives like this, so I plan on talking to the parent-teacher organization about it. Thanks for the information, snakeslane!

leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

Thanks, B. Leekley - I hope awareness grows so that people shy away from the worst offenders in the chocolate industry!

leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

Boycott is very powerful, guyd - and hopefully the word continues to spread so that people are aware of the issue. I have read a few articles on manufacturing practices in China (including with Apple) and the lack of basic human rights in some countries is appalling.

leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

I really like the idea of a green tourist industry - cocoa is grown in tropical regions so I could see a small business growing from allowing people to harvest and produce their own specialty chocolates. That's a great idea, syzygyastro! I keep trying to figure out a way to grow a chocolate tree inside the house... I doubt it would work, though!

leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

Nomascus, the Fair Trade products are more expensive - precisely because the labor is paid for and the "fair wages" increase the cost of the product. There's a reason that we can buy chocolate bars at the dollar store and pay $4 for shirts - the only way to keep prices that low is to shortchange someone along the way. Unfortunately, small children are the ones who pay a terrible price.

leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

Larry, I have tried carob before - it is definitely different than chocolate, but can be used as a substitute! I really do love chocolate - but we try to verify that it is a brand that supports human rights and is against child trafficking now!

Jennifer Madison profile image

Jennifer Madison 4 years ago from Lohmar

This is very shocking and few of us are aware of this issue even though many of us eat chocolate on a daily basis and we don't even waste a thought to where it came from. Thank you for raising awareness for this issue! Great hub

snakeslane profile image

snakeslane 4 years ago from Canada

Hi a leahlefler. Yes, I thought so, but it appears Nestles is also a sponsor of the World Cocoa Foundation! Yikes, looks like every company is doing damage control. And I wonder about motives for all this surge of corporate goodwill. Seems they are just protecting the ongoing source of revenue?

leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

Jennifer, I think most people are unaware that slavery still exists in the world. The major corporations certainly don't advertise the fact that their supply chain has shady secrets to keeping prices low - I do hope that more people become aware, so that fair trade practices increase.

leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

snakeslane, I do think the companies play a bit of a sham game with publicity stunts featuring "international goodwill." There's a lot of talk and little action - they want to be seen as against child slavery, but there is little to no action on the subject matter. Their primary motive is to keep the cash flow coming in, regardless of human cost.

Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 4 years ago from South Carolina

I have never heard of this before and just reading about this horrific abuse is distressing. You've covered the topic very thoroughly and deserve the Hub of the Day accolade for all the research that went into this hub.

Voted up and useful.

leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

Thank you, Happyboomernurse - I hope to raise awareness on the issue, particularly as "chocolate season" (Valentine's Day and Easter) starts with all its chocolate sales.

mbyL profile image

mbyL 4 years ago from Switzerland, Zurich

this is a great hub! i didn't even know about that (though i am alergic to chocolate anyway) but this hub is very informative and interesting! well done on it! ;) and i think this one deserves to be shared with more people than only on hubpages!

leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

I am more than happy to raise awareness, mbyL - I hope people spread the word throughout their communities to purchase fair trade chocolate. I think as the word gets out, consumers will start pushing for regulated cocoa farms to prevent slave labor.

rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

Thanks for this information. I am glad to have been made aware. I had no clue! Bless you for sharing your knowledge. Now to get something done about it. Raising awareness is important because so many people (like me) just don't know!

leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

Raising awareness is an important first step - the consumer does have some power in this situation. Reducing the poverty in nations like Burkina Faso is another important facet, so desperate parents won't need to bet on their children to provide a better future.

truthfornow profile image

truthfornow 4 years ago from New Orleans, LA

This article is important because a lot of people are unaware of how serious slavery is today. In addition to chocolate, people should also buy fair trade coffee. However, it is really hard to avoid products that are made by workers who are abused. Articles have been coming out that even Apple products are made in sweatshops ~ a result of the fact that nothing is made here anymore. Voted useful and up!

leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

Companies are moving offshore to procure cheap (or free) labor from countries that have little interest in human rights. It's deplorable, and we truly make an effort to buy Fair Trade products. Cotton is another product that is often harvested with slave labor. There is a good "myths about sweatshops" article here:

davenstan profile image

davenstan 4 years ago

I knew slavery was still around. I am floored. Very heart breaking. Voted up.

theinfoplanet profile image

theinfoplanet 4 years ago from The Planet of Information

Thank you for spreading information about such an important topic. It was very well written and informational, and hopefully will spread more awareness to the problems of child labour in other countries, not just in chocolate. Thanks again for writing this.

SarahBodo 4 years ago

I wonder why international communities haven't done something to stop this. Children stop attending school forcefully to harvest cocoa. Next time you eat that chocolate, think where it comes from.

pipseater 4 years ago

Excellent Hub, I love every word of it. Your story bring my imagination and heart closer to reality.

It is so sad to see slavery still exist. Not only in Africa , other side of the world too has the same issues on human labor, especially children.

In this issue , I see a non compliance to Nestle chocolate products, because of non compliance issue to the company's cocoa recourse specially to human labor from it's upstream industry. Nestle must check it's upstream resources whether they meet the company's food grade standards. Standard license can be withdraw unless standard is met.

But unfortunately the management don't care. As long as they supply, it is just fine and standard can be bought.

May God help us all.

leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

davenstan, it is shocking to learn that slavery is still around in modern times. It is awful, and few people are aware of how common the practice is in some countries!

leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

Child labor and slavery are prevalent in many countries, including the USA. In America, kids are often found working in fields alongside their parents- a very sad practice, as the children lose out on the opportunity for education. India, Africa, and several other countries have large populations of child laborers.

leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

Sarah, the international community does have statements against the practice, but little action has been taken to stop the practice. In Cote D'Ivoire, it is a crime to hire child slaves, and the "bosses" will receive prison time if caught and found guilty by trial. Unfortunately, the are rarely caught and know how to hide the children they purchased from Faso Burkina and other countries. It is a terrible situation.

leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

Pipseater, it is such a sad statement on humanity that we exploit our own children for free labor and cheap goods. There are many large chocolate companies that obtain cheap cocoa from questionable sources - the big corporations like to pass off the blame, but they certainly take advantage of the extremely low cost product gathered by slaves and enjoy high profit margins because of the child labor. No one wants to be responsible, but we are all responsible for standing by and allowing it to happen. The only way to combat the situation is to boycott products produced by child slaves and to purchase products made by honest, paid labor.

Gemini Fox profile image

Gemini Fox 4 years ago

Very interesting hub! I never knew this was happening!

So sad . . . those companies probably wouldn't really care even today if it wasn't for public outrage - it's all about their shareholders and their profits!

leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

When the Harkin-Engel Protocol was first outlined, companies immediately pushed to perform inspections on a "volunteer" basis - this let the public outcry die out, and the companies never really followed up on voluntary enforcement of anti-slavery protocols. I hope consumers keep pressuring lawmakers and companies to stop this horrid practice!

Dahlia Flower profile image

Dahlia Flower 4 years ago from Canada

This is very disturbing and enlightening. I'm sharing this on Facebook. Thank you for such a well-done article.

leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

Thanks for sharing the information on Facebook, Dahlia - awareness is a powerful ally in the fight against slavery.

cbpoet profile image

cbpoet 4 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

Powerful writing about the slave industry. The stories I've read about on sex slavery in Las Vegas, Nevada are even more heinous.

It's comforting to know that eventually these people are caught and prosecuted, accordingly. They destroy lives and families.

leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

Slavery in all forms is atrocious. There was a recent Lisa Ling documentary on child sex slaves in Washington D.C. - the film crew even showed police cars driving by the scene with nary a second glance at the criminal activity. It is outrageous. Slavery in ALL forms needs to end!

Hxprof 4 years ago from Clearwater, Florida

Good research. I was aware of problems with child and slave labor, but not aware of how prevelant it is.

There's just no end to human greed. There are those who will do ANYTHING or almost anything for money. Despite their trying circumstances, the parents who sell their children into labor are just as guilty as the plantation owners and the giant corporations.

leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

I can't imagine the desperation of the parents in Burkina Faso. Many of them do not realize they are selling their children into slavery - they believe the children will return with money to help the family buy food, medicine, or other basic needs for life. When your children are dying of malnutrition, the situation becomes desperate and the plantation owners prey upon the most vulnerable in society.

Earl Noah Bernsby profile image

Earl Noah Bernsby 4 years ago from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

This was an outstanding article! I would like to weigh in on a question that you asked in the Chain of Blame section- "How does slavery continue to exist in today's world?"

I think that, once you look past all of the excuses, the pleas of ignorance, and the buck passing, it all comes down to one thing: Greed.

leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

Thanks, Earl. You are right - greed is the driving force behind slavery in any age. From the chocolate plantation owners to the corporations wanting to increase their profit margins on the backs of slaves, greed is involved.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.

    Click to Rate This Article