products of child labor
Today, an estimated 115 million children are working — often forced — to produce many of the basic items we buy for cheap at local malls and retail stores. Ranging from the food we eat to the accessories we wear, there are reportedly around 128 goods which exploit and degrade the well-being of these children. Below is a list of the five most common products of child labor.


5 Main Products of Child Labor


5. Cocoa

According to the Department of Labor, cocoa is produced in at least five countries which utilize child labor, including Ghana, Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire. Major candy companies such as Nestle and Hershey’s have been linked to some of these suppliers. Just recently, Nestle was accused of breaching its supplier code, including clauses of child labor, safety and working hours. Hershey’s, too, is reported to have at least thousands of children currently harvesting cocoa beans for the company in West Africa today.

4. Carpets

Currently being produced by five countries which utilize child labor, such as Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan, these products of child labor are being shipped to retail outlets around the world, including areas of Europe, Asia, and the United States.

3. Tobacco

One of the most popular goods in the world, tobacco has been reported to have been harvested in at least 15 countries that use child and forced labor. Philip Morris International, which manufactures Marlboro cigarettes, has actually admitted that the fields in which the company buys their plants have at least 72 child laborers: the youngest being 10 years old. Tobacco is being harvested by children in countries today such as Mexico, the Philippines, Argentina, Brazil and Uganda.

2. Electronics

Apple and Samsung, two of the world’s leading electronics corporations, have recently went under attack for alleged use of child labor. In fact, Apple recently discovered multiple infringements of child labor with some of their suppliers, including one Chinese company that employed at least 74 children. Samsung, too, has been accused by labor rights groups for employee mistreatment and for exploiting child labor. The investigation, which looked into eight factories in China, proved some employees were working at least 100 hours per month of overtime and that children were “knowingly employed.”

1. Cotton

Cotton is produced by at least 16 countries which use child labor, including China, Egypt and Turkey, according to the Department of Labor. In fact, some of our most popular retail chains — from H&M to Wal-Mart to Victoria’s Secret — have been accused of benefiting from child labor. H&M, one of the world’s leading fashion chains, is currently under pressure to eliminate its ties with clothing suppliers that buy cotton from Uzbekistan, where large amounts of the plant are harvested by children.

Before you buy something, know where it’s coming from. Stand up for what you believe. Let’s put an end to supporting these corporations who take advantage of children just like our own.

– Nick Magnanti

Sources: Huffington Post, Department of Labor, View Mixed
Photo: Bloomberg

In 2012, CNN’s Freedom Project released a documentary called “Chocolate’s Child Slaves,” where CNN reporter David McKenzie went to the Ivory Coast to investigate child labor issues. The investigation came 10 years after the Harkin-Engel Protocol (Cocoa Protocol) was signed into law in September 2001.

Cocoa is a major export in West Africa, with 70-75 percent of the world’s supply of cocoa beans grown on small farms in the region. In this area, many children grow up in extreme poverty and have to begin working to support their families. Some children are even sold by family members to human traffickers or to owners of cocoa farms, or abducted from villages in nearby areas, including Burkina Faso and Mali.

Ghana and the Ivory Coast currently produce about 70 percent of the world’s supply of cocoa and also have an extreme child labor problem. Any children who work on cocoa farms or plantations are exposed to health hazards, use dangerous equipment and tools and are subjected to physically demanding work. Many of these children are then also unable to go to school.

In 2001, U.S. Representative Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) introduced legislation to require a labeling system to be put into place in the chocolate industry. The ultimate compromise between the government and the industry was to require chocolate companies to volunteer to certify they had stopped using child labor.

Eventually, the “Cocoa Protocol” required African governments to publicly release information and also included the creation of an audit system and ways to alleviate poverty in the area by 2005. This deadline was moved to 2008 and then to 2010, but today, many say that the requirements have still not been met in the area.

Two years after the release of CNN’s Freedom Project’s documentary, CNN went back to West Africa to see if any progress had been made in fighting child labor in the $110 billion industry. It is now estimated that up to 800,000 children work in the cocoa industry in the Ivory Coast and live in extreme poverty.

In addition, the cocoa industry in West Africa is struggling to meet increasing demand for chocolate around the world. The demand is largely coming from emerging markets, with about 1.3 million people in China beginning to buy chocolate more frequently.

In order to deal with this major increase in demand as well as fight both poverty and child labor, many chocolate companies have started to invest their money in the farmers, many of whom are the poorest members of the population.

Nestlé’s “Cocoa Plan” plans to spread awareness about the issue of child labor in the industry and to also build schools in rural areas in the Ivory Coast. Nestlé has also pledged $120 million to be given over a period of 10 years, and are planning to give 12 million new disease-resistant and high-yielding cocoa trees by 2016.

American company Cargill has its own “Cocoa Plan,” and has founded 1,200 schools in the Ivory Coast to teach good agricultural practices to 60,000 farmers. By educating these farmers, they hope to end child labor.

Many hope that collaboration between chocolate companies, governments and NGOs will be enough to alleviate poverty in West Africa, which many consider the source of the child labor problem. For now, the consensus among all groups is to help farmers and their families get out of poverty and prevent young children from being forced to work and endanger themselves.

– Julie Guacci

Sources: CNN (1), CNN (2), Food Empowerment Project, International Labor Rights Forum, Huffington Post

Ben & Jerry's Fair Trade
It’s been a long day at work and you finally have a chance to sit down with a bowl of chocolate ice cream in front of the television. While flipping through channels, you come across a news story about child slavery in the Ivory Coast, where 43% of the world’s cocoa is produced. You pause with a spoonful of creamy goodness on the way to your mouth and think, “Isn’t anything safe anymore? Can’t I just enjoy my chocolately treat in peace?”

At this point, you have two options: you can keep flipping the channels and focus on how tasty your ice cream is, or you can finish reading this post to discover where to buy fair trade, guilt-free chocolate. Although, it really isn’t much of a choice, now that images of child slaves are lugging bags of cocoa beans around inside your head.

Lucky for everyone involved, many companies are making the switch to Fair Trade cocoa. Fair Trade USA, a non-profit that certifies American products as Fair Trade, currently works with more than 800 companies to ensure that their products comply with all international Fair Trade standards. They certify a multitude of products, including tea and herbs, fresh fruit and vegetables, sugar, flowers, nuts, honey, and (thankfully) cocoa.

The following list consists of five companies that are using Fair Trade cocoa, as determined by Fair Trade USA. These are just a few of the many companies from which you buy chocolate that tastes great and makes you feel even better.

For your ice cream fix, go with Ben & Jerry’s. The Vermont-based company is in the process of converting all ingredients to Fair Trade and profiles their progress by flavor on their website. Their Chocolate Therapy flavor is currently made with 71% Fair Trade ingredients, so eat up!

If you need some dairy-free creaminess, meet NadaMoo. This delicious coconut milk ice cream is organic and Fair Trade Certified. With flavors like Java Crunch, Lotta Mint Chip, and Gotta Do Chocolate, you can enjoy pint-sized dairy-free and slavery-free yumminess.

When chocolate-covered treats catch your eye, look for a SunRidge Farms label. Their organic and Fair Trade Certified dark chocolate-coated almonds, cacao nibs, espresso beans, goji berries, and raisins are sure to satisfy your sweet tooth (or teeth).

Looking to build some muscle with chocolate-y goodness? Tera’s Whey Organic Fair Trade Certified Dark Chocolate Whey Protein is your answer. Your endorphin high combined with that warm fuzzy feeling from buying Fair Trade will leave you feeling fantastic.

For your baking needs, try SunSpire’s organic and Fair Trade chocolate chips and baking bars. When making its chocolate products, SunSpire doesn’t use refined sugars, hydrogenated oils, preservatives, or artificial colors or flavors. The company has also made a long-term commitment to its cocoa farmers through their Caring for Cocoa Communities program, which provides hands-on support for growers and helps to foster growth in their communities.

Now that you’re armed with information, it’s time to head to the store and support these companies using Fair Trade chocolate. Who knew doing the right thing could be so delicious?

Katie Fullerton

Sources: Fair Trade USA, Ben & Jerry’s, NadaMoo, SunSpire

For arable countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the money made on agricultural exports is often invaluable. It can strengthen a government’s budget, benefit farmers who harvest the crops, and improve the overall the standard of living. When this source of money is removed, however, development can slow down for lack of funds.

In Cote d’Ivoire, the increasing importance of cashew exports is undermined by rampant smuggling. A United Nations panel estimated that in 2011, 150,000 tons of cashews were smuggled from Côte d’Ivoire, a trend that is unlikely to change unless foreign purchasers of the nuts crack down on smuggling practices.

Why do Ivorian cashew farmers smuggle cashews? Farmers are often unable to find desirable export prices on raw, unprocessed cashews, and instead sell to neighboring Ghana. Cashews are usually smuggled alongside cocoa, cotton, and coffee on an elaborate smuggling route through the northern and southern borders.

The export loss is staggering. The U.N. estimated that in 2011 alone Côte d’Ivoire lost US $130 million from its national economy and $3 million in fiscal revenue. The U.N. Panel asserted that the money gained from smuggling practices may be used by groups to purchase weaponry illegally, and stated that it was aware that the smuggling of cocoa to Ghana was in a number of cases escorted directly by Ivorian military forces.

Economists pinpoint the reason for low export prices as the low processing capacity for the six main nut processing factories. Less than one percent of the country’s cashews are processed, meaning shelled and sometimes roasted, in-country. Raw cashews net a lower market price. When farmers are unable to legally export their crop for the price they want, they turn to buyers in Ghana. Ultimately, this practice widens the funding gap for Ivorian infrastructure and development projects, growing obstacles to a more stable economy. Ultimately, for this country plagued with political instability and an unstable economy, the revenue created by legal cashew exports could help the country address its biggest challenges.

– Naomi Doraisamy

Source: African Development Bank Group, IRIN News, IRIN News
Photo: Jerry’s Nut House

Fair Trade Chocolate
Chocolate, called “xocoatl” by the Aztecs hundreds of years ago, has historically been a staple in life to many millions of people.

Cacao concoctions were drunk by Mayan royalty, lauded as a gift from the gods, and was even used as currency by the Aztecs as early as the 1500s.

Today’s chocolate is also worth a lot of money. Recent estimates of chocolate consumption patterns around the week of Valentine’s Day say that “consumers will buy more than 58 million pounds of chocolate candy, raking in $345 million in sales and accounting for 5.1 percent of total annual sales” in the United States alone, reports Sylvia Camaj of PolicyMic.

The history of chocolate has also always included a dark side, however.

Scholars know that Mayan and Aztec rituals regarded cacao beans as an essential element in some capacity; whether the ritual was religious, concerned life or death, did or did not involve the sacrifice of human life – cacao was seen as a representation of divinity.

Today’s dark side of chocolate stems primarily from the statistic that 40 percent of the world’s cocoa, produced for major companies such as Hershey, Nestle, Mars, Kraft and Dove, comes from plantations in Africa’s Ivory Coast and Ghana, and is responsible for the trafficking of an estimated 109,000 children, says the State Department. The children suffer terrible abuse for their work, beating beaten and forced to work long hours while being exposed to dangerous and stunting pesticides and equipment.

However, smart and dedicated consumers are demanding change from these multi-national companies, and the companies are responding. When Cadbury was bought by Kraft in 2010, Kraft promised “to honor Cadbury’s commitment to Fair Trade cocoa sourcing. Nestle has also committed to buying chocolate that meets international labor rights standards.” Hershey has made similar commitments, although the company still has much work to do regarding their Fair Trade labor practices.

Consumers pressuring companies into morally correct business practices is a healthy, growing global trend that must receive continued attention and support from the international community. A commitment to Fair Trade products helps companies achieve a better moral standing with consumers. They can then be seen as more credible producers.

An example of a global company adopting Fair Trade production is Starbucks, a global giant in coffee that has committed to streamlining several of their beans purely from Fair Trade sources.

Learn more about Fair Trade from Oxfam International.

– Nina Narang

Sources: PolicyMic, Smithsonian
Photo: Urban Earthworm