Unbelievably, in the 21st century, human slavery still exists on a large scale. And it exists in the chocolate industry that TCHO is a part of. In the African country of Ivory Coast, slaves—often young children sold by human traffickers—harvest cacao on plantations in conditions as bad as those in antebellum American South. Since 37 percent of the world’s supply of cacao comes from the Ivory Coast, a third of all chocolate may have been touched by slaves’ hands.
As a member of this industry, TCHO is taking a stand against slavery. We intend to raise consciousness about the reality of modern slavery in our industry and in the world, and set an example by refusing to use cacao produced by slaves. That’s why you will find “NO SLAVERY” on every product TCHO makes. TCHO sources beans for “Chocolatey” from Ghana, Ivory Coast’s neighbor to the east. We have been concerned about Ghanain beans because old reports describe slavery as being practiced in “West Africa.” While that may have been true once, today it is certainly not true of Ghana.
To be clear, throughout the Third World where it is grown, the cultivation of cacao is a hard life. In Ghana, for example, where most farms are smaller than 50 hectares and family-owned and operated, children are necessarily a part of farm life. In a developing country where 25% of the population lives on $1 per day or less, family economic necessity takes precedence.
What goes on in the Ivory Coast is entirely different. Children are stolen from their homes in Benin, Burkino Faso, or Togo, and sold to Ivory Coast growers, where they are shackled, threatened, beaten, and, all too often, killed. The operations using slave labor are not family farms but large plantations, whose products are sold to global commodity traders and large European chocolate companies.
When, in 1998, A UNICEF report first shed light on this exploitation, the companies buying slavery-tainted Ivory Coast cacao were forced to react. The Chocolate Manufacturers Association, composed of the biggest chocolate companies, set up a foundation in 2000 whose goal was to help eliminate slavery over the next five years. But eight years later there is still widespread slavery in the cacao fields of the Ivory Coast. A cynic might remark that their effort was cosmetic, a fig leaf to provide cover for practices which have not improved as they continue to purchase Ivorian cacao.
TCHO believes that the most effective change comes from direct action. That is why we developed TCHOSource, to partner with growers and coops and transfer knowledge about growing and fermentation to enable farmers to become premium producers and create a relationship of mutual self-interest that goes beyond Fair Trade. It’s in the same spirit of working directly to make a better world that we are attempting to raise consciousness about slavery.
Slavery is the basest violation of human dignity, a practice which we naively think was extinguished in the great abolition struggles of the 19th century. Instead, slavery continues to violently damage the lives of fellow humans from Ivory Coast to Sudan, from Haiti to India and Pakistan, from the Dominican Republic to China. According to Anti-Slavery International, over 27 million people—more than at any time in the past—are in bondage in the 21st century. We—and you—can make a difference. NO SLAVERY is part of TCHO’s mission to make a better world.