Ghana is one of the largest exporters of cocoa in the world with most of it grown on small independently owned farms. Due to widespread chronic poverty, children are often needed to help their family by working and earning an income.
Many families simply cannot afford to send their children to school and even if they can, the poor quality of education means that children remain uneducated and unskilled contributing further to the cycle of poverty. Farmers are often not paid fairly for their produce and efforts and continue to live in poverty. The US Department of Labor estimates that there are 2 million children in Ghana and the Ivory Coast working in the cocoa industry. In some instances, children are forced to work for long hours in dangerous and demanding conditions, spraying chemicals and wielding machetes to break open cocoa pods.i ii
In the past, many companies who make the chocolate we love did not know where their cocoa beans came from and under what conditions they were picked and processed.
More research, knowledge and pressure from consumers has led to companies striving to be better informed, ethical and fair. “Cocoa is a commodity,” explains Elan Emanuel, senior cocoa manager at Fair Trade USA. “From bean to bar there are many supply chain actors. There are many involved in the processing and all of them need to make some sort of money to keep their business viable. Cocoa farmers in West Africa… are the least empowered of any of those actors.” The growing Fair Trade movement aims to ensure chocolate companies are paying fairly for their cocoa beans and tracing their supply chains to protect children from exploitation. Unfortunately, only a very small percentage of cocoa comes from Fair Trade certified farms.iii
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child recognises that every child has the inherent right to life. It also recognises other rights that every child, including those with a mental or physical disability, require to enjoy a full and decent life. These include the right to education and protection from economic exploitation or performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with their education, be harmful to their health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development.iv
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