Child Labor, Chocolate, and Coffee: Part 1

One of These Things is Not Like the Other

Drinking a Starbucks coffee or treating yourself to a bit of chocolate after a long day of work are normal concepts to us, here in America. We don’t give a second thought to these delicious items, or where they come from. All we see is the barista making our latte or an employee stocking the aisle with more chocolate bars. But where do they come from before they reach our kitchen? And who is making them and manufacturing them?

Child labor still happens today, whether we are aware of it or not. Children in West Africa, primarily, are exploited and used for their labors and robbed of their childhood. The majority of the children toiling on cocoa farms are within the ages of 12 and 16, but journalists have found children as young as 5-years-old. Of these young children, 40% of them are girls. A few stay for several months, while others end up working on the cocoa farms into adulthood. A child’s workday normally starts at six in the morning and finishes in the evening. Their work consists of dangerous tools such as chainsaws, to cut down trees and clear forests in search of bean pods. Others climb dangerous heights to cut the bean pods from the trees, using sharp machetes. Children typically have cuts and scars on their hands and arms from the dangers of slicing their skin with sharp swords. The children pack the pods into sacks that typically weigh over 100 pounds when filled, and they drag them through the forest or put them on their head. Children are sometimes beaten if they aren’t quick enough with the task at hand. In other countries, children as young as 10-years-old are trusted to spray dangerous toxins in the air, and without wearing the proper clothing, can result in dangerous health conditions.

Most children don’t have a choice when it comes to working on cocoa farms. Some children work in order to provide for their families. Most children, however, are sold into the trafficking industry, either from a family member, who is oblivious of the hazardous tasks and conditions and the absence of any provisions or education for their children, or farmworkers and traffickers. Some work because a trafficker tells them it pays well, when in fact it pays, typically, less than $2 per day — an income which is drastically under the poverty line. As a result, farmers and traffickers often resort to the use of child labor to keep their prices competitive.

Want to know more about child labor and how it connects to the coffee industry? Stay tuned for my next blog, Child Labor, Chocolate, and Coffee: One of These Things is Not Like the Other: Part 2″.


By Sara Corcoran, Undergrad Counseling Intern


Olive Branch Counseling Associates, Inc.

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