Forced Child Labor and Cocoa Production in West Africa

Forced Child Labor and Cocoa Production in West Africa

Around the world there are about 5 million and a half children exploited in cocoa farms. About one third of the cocoa in circulation worldwide comes from Ivory Coast and 20% of the production from Ghana while Nigeria, Cameroon, Indonesia, Brazil and Ecuador produce the rest. In West Africa, cocoa is mainly grown to export and cocoa farmers hardly can live selling cocoa beans, so children are exploited in order to keep the cocoa price competitive considering that chocolate industry demand cheap cocoa.
Children working in cocoa farms live in poverty and start working at a very young age, which can vary from 5 to 17 years old. Some children are sold by their fathers and mothers to traffickers or to the farm owners, while others are kidnapped by traffickers and then sold to farmers. Once in the cocoa farms, children will not be able to see their parents and siblings for years or even forever.
Those young farmers are forced to do hard work that involves the worst forms of exploitation. The cultivation of cocoa provides, in fact, that small workers climb trees with machetes to drop the fruit from which it subsequently extracting the seeds of the cocoa. This is not, however, the only dangerous and strenuous activity that involves the use of a plantation. Children often have to use pesticides, carry heavy loads, burn the leaves, clear the ground, drying cocoa beans.
Children working in cocoa farms are definitely the losers in global political economy because working in such hard conditions hinter their physical and mental development as well as deprives them from their childhood and deny them the right to have an education. In the majority of the cases these children will become illiterate adults and will remain in extreme poverty, because they lack the possibility to grow in their social and professional life.

Francesca Urso
Dubai Campus


2 thoughts on “Forced Child Labor and Cocoa Production in West Africa

  1. You have shed light on some good points regarding the health implications child labour imposes on children who work in dangerous conditions at cocoa plantations. While poverty and economic shocks in West Africa are key contributors in determining the market for child labour…poverty in itself should not be a “sufficient” explanation for such practices. Child labour may not even be recognised as an issue of concern when children work for family units. This is particularly common in the agriculture industry whereby an entire family may have to meet a quota and not employ outside help – solely because children are deemed as an active part of a family business. I believe while there should be a focus to eradicate poverty which would then in turn eliminate child labour – more work should be done towards placing child labour on the finance and planning ministries or even development agendas. This is a political issue of concern whereby the governments should react because many young workers are unaware of what their rights are and consequently, less likely to complain or revolt. In many countries, the legislation is simply not effective enough to support these workers. Unfortunately children are losers in the global political economy but if the right mechanisms are in place – they can be deemed winners in no time. Ammna Nasser (Dubai campus)

  2. The situation is very complicated. As it can be seen, many different factors such as poverty, lack of government’s will, human traffic and even parents who can sell their children by themselves take place therefore governments have to react very quick otherwise the situation will become even worth. More attention should be paid because of the fact that these children are the future of their countries and only they will contribute to the development of their countries or if they are not able to do this then these countries will have even more problems in the future.

    Adil Zhaukov

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