our mission - the problem
Slavery = cocoa
It’s a sad fact of life, but it doesn’t make it any less true. Slavery today still exists in the global cocoa trade, but it doesn’t have to. Stick with us a moment longer so we can explain.
Approximately 60% of the world’s cocoa comes from two West African countries: Ghana and Ivory Coast. To satisfy the global demand for chocolate, about 2.5 million farmers work on their cocoa plantations. But like all statistics, these numbers reveal little about the reality of cocoa economics.
The economic reality of a cocoa farmer
Let’s say you buy a bar of chocolate in the supermarket for €2.50. That’s not a bad price for a quality bar of chocolate, right? Of this price, the cocoa farmer receives about 12₵. On an annual basis, that’s approximately €1,000. For a typical Ghanaian family of 6. This translates into less than €1 per person per day to live on. That’s far below the African poverty line.
Of course, there’s no simple solution. Western consumers like an affordable bar of quality chocolate, and chocolate producers want to meet that demand. We get that, loud and clear. We just think chocolate lovers should understand the economics of their chocolate, and know there is an alternative. The truth is simple: low-priced chocolate in the West means rock-bottom prices for cocoa farmers in Africa. It means cocoa farmers do not earn enough to invest in their own equipment or improve their livelihoods in any way. That you probably already know, or at least can imagine. But what you probably don’t know is that these low-low prices open the door to the worst fate imaginable: (child) slavery.
We want to break through this vicious cycle by producing chocolate with a clean conscience.
Slavery? Yes, slavery!
So what do we mean exactly when we say there is slavery in these modern times? We don’t use the word lightly—we’d rather not use the word at all. But a serious conversation requires a serious definition, and this is ours.
Slavery = Any form of forced labour and/or labour which is not paid for, including any form of illegal child labour.
Here are the numbers. Approximately 2.5 million people work on cocoa plantations in Ghana and Ivory Coast. The majority of these people—1.8 million—are children. If you think that number is pretty sad, here’s something worse: 460,000 of them are modern-day slaves, including 15,000-30,000 children.
What does child slavery involve? It involves children being taken from their families, denied an education and forced to work under dangerous conditions.
In 2001 a number of international chocolate multinationals signed the Harkin Engel protocol. The objective of the protocol was to eliminate the ‘worst forms of child labour’ within 10 years. Yet here we are, more than a decade later and there are still 1.8 million children working the plantations in Ghana and Ivory Coast. To be clear, not all child labour on cocoa plantations is illegal. It is common for children to work alongside their parents on the plantation after their schoolwork is done. Child labour becomes illegal when it endangers a child or keeps him or her from attending school.
The Harkin Engel protocol has failed us. So it is time to take things into our own hands. Because slave labour is wrong, and child slavery is a tragedy.