He was looking for Ali, the driver of the bus. The boy was Malian and no more than 10 years old. 100’s of miles away from home and separated from his family, he had no idea where he was. He had just spent hours on a bus traveling from the depot to the border town near the Ivory Coast. He was in the middle of a human trafficking ring that began in the bus depot and included the bus driver and a network of other transport
“professionals” that take the children all the way across the border and deliver them to the cocoa farms to work as slaves. This is the “dark side of chocolate” and the topic of a documentary of the same name by award winning Danish journalist Miki Mistarti.
On Wednesday Dec 14, the Healdsburg Progressive Club featured a screening of this film in cooperation with Fair Trade Healdsburg at the Healdsburg High School’s Black Box Theater. You can watch the full documentary here.
The film suggests that the dark side of chocolate is the wide use of child slaves to farm the cocoa. These children range in ages from as young as 8 all the way up to 19. In most cases there are no wages for these children as they can be bought for a few hundred dollars and used for an indefinite period of time. They sleep in wooden shacks, carry machetes to harvest the cocoa, wear no shoes and have no other safety equipment. They are girls and boys alike working as slaves in the Ivory Coast and many of them are initially trafficked from the country of Mali.
When I became aware of the issue of trafficked children in the chocolate industry I was faced with a decision to make. “Do I support companies that do not have transparency in the their supply chains and whose monitoring processes are inadequate, or do I support companies who know exactly where they are getting their product from?”
The choice was easy for me, I only want to support companies that know who handles their product from the farm where it’s grown to the merchant who sells it. It means that I have to change the way I do a few things but the chocolate does taste sweeter. Here’s some examples of the brands that I buy at my local Big John’s Market.
Nestle, Hershey’s, Barry Callebaut and Mars are some of the biggest perpetrators of the offense and all have major offices in the Ivory Coast to buy cocoa from the farms in that region. Watch the documentary and make an informed decision. Every purchase matters and we can let our purchase be our advocacy. It’s a simple thing buying Fair Trade chocolate but I feel better knowing that no one was in danger or forced to to make the thing that I enjoy.