Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Child Slavery and Cocoa

The problem that I have with this pitch is not the fact of slavery itself but the ongoing dream that it can be weeded by yet more laws that already exist everywhere.

Child slavery in any form will end only when the nations involved accept the most basic lesson of the Scottish enlightenment three hundred years old.  It must become mandatory that every child is provided with six years or core education in reading, writing and arithmetic.  The old Scots thought that they were ensuring every person could read the bible himself and make up his own mind.  Instead they got a lot more.  They got an effective modern population.

The fact is that some African countries continue to shirk this fundamental step in nation building and we are left with the buying and selling of illiterate children who are no more than draft animals.  This is wrong.

Pressure needs to be brought to bear on these nations who allow a single child to be unschooled.

Keep Child Slavery Out of the Cocoa Supply Chain 

October 14, 2010
Sorry to scare you, but on Halloween, much of the chocolate Americans will hand out to trick-or-treaters will be tainted by the labor of enslaved children.
Hershey's, Nestlé, and the other big chocolate companies know this. They promised nearly a decade ago to set up a system to certify that no producers in their supply chains use child labor. They gave themselves a July 2005 deadline for that, which came and went without meaningful action. A second voluntary deadline sailed by as well in 2008. There's a new deadline for voluntary action at the end of this year. Don't hold your breath.
Few Americans had heard of this problem before reporters Sudarsan Raghavan and Sumana Chatterjee exposed the scandalous conditions under which most U.S. chocolate is made, in the summer of 2001.
In one of their articles, a slave described his 13-hour work-days on the 494-acre plantation as brutal, filled with harsh physical labor, punctuated by beatings, and ending with a night of fitful sleep on a wooden plank in a locked room with other slaves.
“The beatings were a part of my life,” said the boy, who was sold into slavery at not yet 12 years old. “Anytime they loaded you with bags and you fell while you were carrying them, nobody helped you. Instead, they beat you and beat you until you picked it up again.”
The reports shocked some members of Congress into action. That fall, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) prepared bills to require U.S. chocolate companies--by force of law--to certify their products as slave-free. Engel’s bill passed the House, but before Harkin’s bill could pass the Senate, the chocolate industry had announced a voluntary four-year plan to clean up its own supply chains, without legislation.
Meanwhile, evidence that child slavery still bedevils the chocolate industry isn’t hard to find. For example, in late September, a research team from Tulane University (specifically charged by Congress with oversight of the voluntary supply-chain efforts) reported that “the industry is still far from achieving its target by the end of 2010 … and the majority of children exposed to the worst forms of child labor remain unreached.”
The just-released documentary The Dark Side of Chocolate, by filmmakers Miki Mistrati and U. Roberto Romano takes a less detached tone, going undercover and exposing child slavery in the cocoa supply chain from the inside.
And if that’s not enough, the State Department’s own 2010 Trafficking in Personsreport lists several West African countries where children are traded and taken to work cocoa plantations.
All the while, the biggest chocolate companies cavil that because they don’t own the cocoa plantations outright, cleaning up their supply chains is too hard. But some of them aren’t even trying. The biggest cocoa company in the country, Hershey’s--even after nine years to get started--has no certification system in place whatsoever to ensure that its cocoa isn’t tainted by labor rights abuses.
Here are three things you do this Halloween to ensure that your chocolate isn’t tainted by the exploitation of children overseas.
  • You can look for chocolate from companies that do certify their supply chains, via labels such the Fair Trade label and the IMO Fair For Life label. Green America offers a scorecard explaining these labels in detail, and ranking the chocolate companies.
  • You can contact conventional chocolate companies like Hershey’s – call them, write to them, write on their Facebook pages – and tell them you expect them to prove their supply chains aren’t tainted.
  • You can contact your representatives in Congress. If after a decade the chocolate companies can’t monitor their own supply chains, we need to go back to the drawing board, and demand, by law, that slave-produced chocolate has no place on the shelves of stores in the USA.
The people who produce the raw materials for our chocolate treats deserve fair wages and safe working conditions. African children shouldn't have to suffer unspeakable horrors so that our children can have a happy Halloween
--Andrew Korfhage

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