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Kids against cocoa slavery

Published in The Food Magazine issue 78
6th August 2007

Chocolate manufacturers such as Nestlé, Mars and Cadbury are not doing much to stop child slavery in the Ivory Coast, so school kids in Tonbridge Wells are taking a stand.

Anti-slavery campaigners Stop The Traffik (STT) recently visited 22 schools at the start of a nationwide campaign and showed pupils that nearly half of the chocolate in their tuck shop comes from cocoa plantations that use slave labour. Pupils passed the message onto friends and family, with some resourceful students even organising a town centre demonstration to highlight the issue.

The STT campaign is highlighting the plight of thousands of children in the Ivory Coast who are sold by traffickers to cocoa farmers. The children are then forced to harvest the crops that are bought by the British chocolate industry.

Students from schools in the Tonbridge Wells area produced papier mache Easter eggs to dress the trees in the town centre. The eggs symbolised the nameless, faceless children who have been forced to work as unpaid labour in cocoa plantations. 

Campaigner Mandy Flashman said, “The school kids were shocked to hear that in the Ivory Coast children their age were forced to work on plantations, and would be beaten severely if they tried to escape.” An International Labour Organisation report showed that an estimated 12,000 children have been trafficked into the Ivory Coast, enslaved on cocoa plantations and forced to work long hours.

STT chairman Steve Chalke says, “The big chocolate manufacturers are not doing enough to stop a slave trade which they are fully aware of. Nestlé, Mars and Cadbury must deliver a Traffik Free Guarantee by signing Stop The Traffik’s ‘Traffik Free Chocolate Pledge’. Only then can we know that our chocolate snacks don’t contain the blood, sweat and tears of African children.”

Nestlé, Mars and Cadbury are unlikely to take action unless consumers hit them where it hurts the most – their profit margins. If you want to take a stand against child slavery in the cocoa trade choose fair trade chocolate such as Divine, Green and Black’s, Oxfam and Traidcraft. Most supermarkets also produce ‘own brand’ fair trade chocolate.

Note: Green and Black’s was taken over by Cadbury Schweppes in 2005 but retains its fair trade status.

Useful resources

For more information see http://www.stopthetraffik.org/

Red easter eggs hang from a treeStudents from schools in the Tonbridge Wells area produced papier mache Easter eggs to dress the trees in the town centre. The eggs symbolised the nameless, faceless children who have been forced to work as unpaid labour in cocoa plantations.