Children and chocolate--just thinking of them together brings
delightful memories of first birthday cakes spread across the smiling
face of a toddler in a high chair, collecting chocolate eggs on Easter,
costumed older children filling trick-or-treat bags on Halloween or
discovering chocolate Santas in stockings on Christmas morning
But there's a darker connection between children and chocolate.
Many chocolate-producing countries, most particularly Ivory Coast
and Ghana in West Africa, use child labor to produce chocolate. It's
a labor-intensive process, and many of these children, as young as
nine or ten, have scarred arms and legs from cutting themselves with
the sharp machetes the work requires.
Most chocolate-producing countries, including Ivory Coast, have
laws against child labor, but families are so poor, the children slip
through the jungles, evading law enforcement to work on the
plantations just for food.
How can we as Christians, or just decent human beings, enjoy this
treat without supporting the abhorrent practice of child labor?
One way is to purchase fair trade chocolate, which may cost more,
but assures that a fair portion of the price goes to small farmers who
might be tempted to use child labor. Another way is to purchase
organic chocolate, which is regulated at various stages of production,
helping to insure that those employing child labor will be discovered
Child slaves work in hiding in the jungles
(above). A child sells fair trade chocolate
nibs in the open market (left). His family,
not slaveholders, reap the profit.