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Child Labour in Cocoa Production (wikipedia.org)
30 points by Red_Tarsius 4 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 14 comments

Chocolate brand largely focused around child labor and exploitation in chocolate production: https://tonyschocolonely.com/us/en/our-mission

What's pretty telling is that nowhere in their brand statements have they confirmed their chocolate is child-labor free. What's more:

> We believe in empowering cocoa farmers and people in cocoa communities with a certain level of consciousness about what is and isn't allowed. It’s fine for children to help out on the farm after school and learn about how cocoa is grown, but it’s important that farmers and communities know where to draw the line. They need to understand that certain types of work, such as heavy lifting, are harmful to children. Cooperatives have to do their part in taking responsibility to combat illegal child labor.

By their own admission they are not trying to end child labor - just improve the practice.

(Which I think is noble, I just don't think people appreciate how difficult eliminating child labor is)

About 15 years ago when I was still in the food industry I remember a chocolatier telling me she didn't believe it was possible to be genuinely completely sure there was no child or slave labor in your chocolate.

You could get the number low, possibly zero, you could with a lot of effort get a snapshot of your supply chain at a point where the number was plausibly zero, but you couldn't guarantee it was actually at zero over any length of time. It's entirely possible the situation has improved since then, I have no particular knowledge either way.

I mean, we haven't eliminated child labour in most Western countries - there's still plenty of kids walking their neighbours dogs, babysitting, cleaning cars, delivering newspapers etc. I don't think "prevent all children from ever doing any work" is the standard expectation here.

And while it's not necessarily about child labour, they're very explicit that they won't call their chocolate slave-free, and I imagine similar logic applies to child labour: https://tonyschocolonely.com/uk/en/why-we-still-wont-say-wer...

EDIT: to be clear, exploitative child labour, and child labour at the expense of health, education, or resources are completely immoral. Children should work because they choose to and because they get something out of it, not because the industry needs all the hands it can get at in order to function. However, I dislike this idea of "but it's not perfect, so should we really support it?" The work that companies like Tony's do is incredibly important, and - slightly less importantly - they produce some of the best chocolate on the market (and also not at outrageous prices). So this clearly isn't a pipe dream of theirs that will never succeed.

Your wording makes it seem they exploit child labor and exploitation.

Slightly kidding but reminds me of the "I support brain cancer" t shirts which I'm sure we all know what they were trying to say.

This is a hard issue for me to thumb my nose at. Child labor was the historic norm for all pre-industrial societies. And to a degree, child labor is still practiced in Western agriculture - ask anyone who grew up in a farming community.

As far as I understand, the majority of chocolate production in places in Africa is still people hauling sacks of cacao into a market to be hauled away by middlemen. The only real immediate solution is to industrialize the supply chain (corporately managed plantations and processing plants), or stop consuming products from these regions altogether.

Similar: "Cocoa harvested by kids as young as 5 in Ghana" https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=38491826 111 points 67 days ago

The bitter reality is that in a primary agricultural household economy, there will be child labor. This has been the case through history, and even in the United States the child labor laws exempt work on a family farm. The economics just really don’t work out otherwise.

If in a fit of “virtue” we decide to ban that without taking the economic realities into consideration, you are likely to make it far worse. Living with your family and working with them harvesting cocoa is far better than starving, begging, or prostitution.

This is certainly an important thing to keep in mind but at least some of these situations aren't so happy:

> In 2001, the report A Taste of Slavery: How Your Chocolate May be Tainted won a George Polk Award. In it were claims that traffickers promised paid work, housing, and education to children who were forced to labour and undergo severe abuse, that some children were held forcibly on farms and worked up to 100 hours per week, and that attempted escapees were beaten. It quoted a former slave: "The beatings were a part of my life" and "when you didn't hurry, you were beaten."

To OP's point, sending children off to work in a farm is still an unhappy choice of desperation.

This is also an example from over 20 years ago - before NGOs and brands really began policing this stuff. It could be there has been some improvement since then.

The world was also MUCH poorer 20 years ago.

A good friend of mine is from a (still) poor farming family from rural Vietnam.

When they were growing up on their coffee farm in the late 90s/early 2000s they lived in what was basically a mud hut with dirt floors, and helped with the harvest directly.

That friend (and their siblings) all ended up attending college in Saigon and getting white collar jobs, and their family still runs the same farm.

The difference was agricultural technology and automation became much cheaper, so there was less of a need to have a lot of kids do manual labor, so they sent their kids thru K-12 and later college.

My dad's generation had a similar thing happen as well in North India after the Green Revolution.

His dad was working on harvesting, sowing, and other agricultural related work at all times when he was a kid, yet when the Green Revolution happened - and with it reforms in rural financing along with cheap agricultural technology - there was no reason for my dad to live that kind of lifestyle, so he was able to attend school instead of rotting out in a field.

Democratizing relevant agricultural technology AND enhancing rural financing has a night and day difference in alleviating rural poverty.

Samee with Coffee beans.

most of the farmers work in a small hold farm that may be in part of a cooperative of their piece of land, so the whole family would contribute to any workload.

John Oliver covered this issue last year as well. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FwHMDjc7qJ8

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