Stanisland--Interview with Ayn Riggs

stanisland October 9, 2019 Compass

12 Questions For Ayn Riggs Of Slave Free Chocolate

When you walk by a chocolate shop, the scent of cocoa aroma busts down the door of your nostrils compelling you to buy. The Aztecs first grew cocoa thousands of years ago, and the world has since traded it as a luxury item, commodified and distributed as an integral part of the global economy. Read More here

"You the whites, are eating cocoa, You bring the price," By Kristy Leissle Confectionary News.

'You, the whites, are eating cocoa. You bring the price … you have to give us a chance to sell it at the price that we want’

09-Aug-2019 By Kristy Leissle

‘I am a cocoa farmer’ is the first in an occasional series by Dr Kristy Leissle, scholar of the cocoa and chocolate industries. In each article, Leissle profiles one individual who makes a living growing cocoa, exploring how she or he came to cocoa farming, their relationship with the crop, and its financial impact on their lives, among other issues. Over time, the series will illustrate both the diversity of people who farm cocoa, and the similarities of their circumstances.


an additional GH¢600 (US$111). He sounded genuinely pleased with the amount, but still described it as “small money,” and emphasized that it doesn’t make his life luxurious. “It’s good, it’s very good,” he said, “but if you get the premium, you are not going to use it to buy meat, fish and enjoy yourself.” Instead, he uses the money—which arrives during cocoa’s light crop in July, when cash is tight—to prepare his farmland for the upcoming main harvest.

When I asked Adamnor what would make cocoa farming easier, he laughed and told me that nothing was easy. He described a cycle, in which it seemed that smallholders like him were perpetually stuck: the only way to make life easier was to do less cocoa farming labor, which is hot and sweaty and involves the ceaseless removal of weeds and tending of trees. Doing less of that labor oneself meant hiring laborers to do it for you.

If you get the large farm, you will get more money 

And the only way to get enough money to hire laborers was to have a lot of land in the first place. “If you get the large farm, you will get more money,” he said, “and when you are getting more money, the work is becoming soft for you. Because you get more laborers, [and] the work will go fast.”

Though we met at the start of the rainy season, the skies were clear that morning over the ABOCFA office in Suhum, so I was hopeful of visiting Adamnor’s farm, about a half-hour walk away. But Adamnor told me that it wasn’t a good day for a visit. It was coming up on the Ohum festival, which celebrates the start of the yam harvest. According to tradition, for several days around the festival, it is considered disrespectful to do farm work. If we did go to his farm and were caught, Adamnor would have had to pay the chief a fine of 10 bags of cement, at a cost of GH¢350 (US$65), or more than half of what he had earned in premium money the previous season.

Leissile on a visit to a cocoa farm in Suhum Eastern region Ghana. Pic: Kristy Leissile

Adamnor didn’t seem too fazed by the work ban. In 2018, he was elected vice president of ABOCFA, and meetings kept him busy. At nine that morning, when I arrived at the office, a staff meeting that had begun at six was just wrapping up. After we talked, Adamnor walked off to join another meeting with a farmer group. Clearly, there was no shortage of other work to do. But still, the week was an important one on Adamnor’s farm. With cocoa trees well over 40, which is the upper end of their commercially productive age, Adamnor needed to replant. Work was being done that week to finish clearing and replanting half his land.

It is not easy for a smallholder to clear cocoa trees and start again, not least because Theobroma cacao can take up to five years to start producing fruit. Ghana Cocoa Board distributes seedlings for free, but there were none available when Adamnor wanted to replant, so he purchased them at 50 pesawas (US$0.09) each, plus another 50 pesawas for a laborer to plant each one: a total of GH¢1 (US$0.18) per seedling.

His preference was for a hybrid variety that matures quickly. “That one, you harvest it [in] just about three years’ time. That’s fast. It will grow very quickly.” The hybrid would also produce cocoa pods year round. “It [has] no season,” Adamnor explained, “every time it is bearing a fruit.”

Adamnor also planned to intercrop his cocoa with Apem and Apentu plantains, which are used to make a starchy base for savory meals, as well as bananas, which are sweeter and eaten as fruit. Each banana also costs GH¢1 (US$0.18) total for seedling and planting, and those trees would mature faster than cocoa. Each acre of land could hold 450 cocoa seedlings and 450 banana seedlings. For the 3.5 acres he was replanting, Adamnor’s total investment in new trees came to GH¢3150 (US$585). He also had to hire four laborers. At GH¢20 per person, per day, Adamnor’s labor costs came to GH¢560 (US$104).

On top of these costs, his cocoa earnings will now be half of what they were, until the seedlings mature. It is possible to plant seedlings amongst old cocoa trees, to retain income while young trees mature. However, Adamnor’s older trees were infected with sasabro (swollen shoot virus), and he could not risk the seedlings being infected. He also wanted to replant trees in straight lines, and would not have been able to do that with the older trees still in place.

Their father is going to the farm, so they want to know what their father is doing

Adamnor thinks of himself as a cocoa farmer, but he would still like to diversify into other livelihood activities, especially raising grasscutters—bush rodents that are a popular source of meat. A mating pair and the cage to house them costs about GH¢1500 (US$279). Grasscutters sell for GH¢120-150 (US$22-28) apiece in the marketplace, depending on size, so he would have to breed and sell at least 10 animals before turning a profit. It’s not an investment Adamnor feels he can make right now.

I asked whether Adamnor wanted his daughters—Lois (12), Silvia (7), and Judith (3)—to become cocoa farmers. He was concerned, as are many people I meet in Ghana, that it is more difficult for women to farm cocoa than it is for men. Because women aren’t considered to have the strength to perform certain farm tasks, they must hire laborers. If you’re a woman, Adamnor said, “you spend all your money to pay laborers.” His children were too young to know what they wanted to be when they grew up, but Adamnor hoped they would choose to become nurses or doctors. For now, they just enjoyed going to the farm with him.

Just for fun,” he said. “They do nothing.” He began to laugh. “Maybe they fetch water, give me water to drink. They just want to go with their father. Their father is going to the farm, so they want to know what their father is doing.”

Though Adamnor considered cocoa a serious business for himself, I wondered if his reluctance for his daughters to take over the family farm was also because—unlike his grandmother—he didn’t see a hopeful future for smallholders. Land, he insisted, was the main limiting factor to improving his livelihood. “If you get land, then you get money,” he told me.

But he also thought cocoa’s price was too low. Adamnor laid responsibility for this with foreigners who enjoy eating cheap chocolate. “You, the whites, are eating cocoa,” he said. “You bring the price … you have to give us a chance to sell it at the price that we want.” I asked what producer price would make meaningful financial change in his life. “Even at six hundred, oh, it would change things,” he replied. GH¢600 (US$111) per bag would be a 26% increase on the current producer price in Ghana.

At that price, selling 15 bags a year, Adamnor quickly calculated that he would have more than GH¢1500 (US$279) additional annual income—well over double what he earned last year from the organic and Fairtrade premium. With that increase, he could continue to invest in his farm, but also allow for some domestic comforts. “Maybe, if your children are going to school … maybe they are walking to the school, but if you have a lot of money … you will hire a car for them,” he mused. With the prospect of even such modest luxuries, Adamnor thought that “even the youngest will be happy to join a cocoa farm.… If the price is high, all the young will run to cocoa farm. And everybody will take it as a serious business.”

It’s really a peaceful country. We are having a lot of things: cocoa, coffee, timber ..

Adamnor can remember all the times he has bought chocolate—because there have only been two of them. He made both purchases in Accra, buying Kingsbite milk chocolate bars from traffic vendors as gifts for his daughters. He’s never bought chocolate for himself, although he gets to taste it pretty often, when foreigners come to visit ABOCFA. I had brought some milk and dark bars made with Ghana cocoa. Adamnor preferred the dark, but said his daughters and his wife, Hannah, would prefer the sweeter milk chocolate.

Adamnor showing Leissle the ballot on which he ran for ABOCFA VP. Pic: Kristy Leissle

After our tasting, I asked what Adamnor would want people to know about Ghana. His answer surprised me. He said that foreigners who visit ABOCFA often see the goodness of Ghana more readily than he does.

He sees more of a mix—much is difficult, but there are also things to be proud of. “Ghana is good,” he mused. “It’s really a peaceful country. We are having a lot of things: cocoa, coffee, timber, even now we are having oil here.”

He paused, and seemed to make a connection between the peace and Ghana’s ability to trade its resources. “We have peace,” he said again. “Even the peace serves.”

About 'Dr Chocolate'

Dr Kristy Leissle is a scholar of cocoa and chocolate. Since 2004, her work has investigated the politics, economics, and cultures of these industries, focusing on West African political economy and trade, the US craft market, and the complex meanings produced and consumed through chocolate marketing and advertising. Her recent book, Cocoa (Cambridge: Polity, 2018) explores cocoa geopolitics and personal politics, and was #3 on Food Tank’s 2018 Fall Reading List.

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US Senators Propose ban on Ivorian Cocoa. Another Washington Post article.

The Washington Post's article in June stirred 2 Senators into action. This is a good thing but, I agree with the stand that The Ivory Coast is taking, that a ban would hurt the children first. We at SFC agree. We also hold the stand that the chocolate companies who signed the Harkin Engle Protocol are not keeping up with their promises. Much much more can and should be done on their end, in conjunction with whatever the IC and Ghana governments are doing. It is our charter that not only are the worst forms of child labor including trafficking in the cocoa industry is eradicated but that the 2.3 million children at risk whether they are exploited family labor or trafficked children are safely brought out of this abject situation.

US Weighs Plan to Block Cocoa
By Peter Whoriskey

August 7, 2019 at 10:44 AM EDT

A proposed U.S. ban on cocoa from Ivory Coast, the world’s leading supplier of chocolate’s essential ingredient, is facing strong political resistance from the West African nation.

Indebted Ivory Coast Farmers by Ange Aboa of Rueters Africa

Indebted Ivory Coast cocoa farmers unable to prepare for next season


By Ange Aboa-Reuters Africa


SOUBRE, Ivory Coast Feb 13 (Reuters) - A wave of defaults by cocoa exporters in top producer Ivory Coast has left farmers with unsold beans, indebted and unable to purchase fertiliser and pesticides to prepare their plantations for next season's harvest.

Cocoa has piled up at the ports for weeks and has been left to rot on trees as exporters, having wrongly speculated that world cocoa prices would extend years-long gains, declined to purchase beans to fill unprofitable contracts.

The stocking of beans, often in poor conditions, is already likely to have a negative impact on quality for the current harvest. But the financial pressure on farmers and cooperatives is set to have a knock-on effect for the 2017/18 season which will open in October.

"Right now I'm not interested in buying fertiliser or other products. I don't even have 1,000 francs in my pocket in order to eat, so how could I think of that?" said Ali Diabate, 58, who farms six hectares near the town of Soubre in the southwest.

Of 23 farmers interviewed last week across Ivory Coast's western cocoa heartland, none said they planned to invest in fertiliser or pesticides.

The Ivorian government introduced a forward sales system in 2012 allowing it to set a minimum price for farmers with the primary aim of encouraging growers to reinvest in their plantations.

Farmer incomes had steadily risen in line with world prices. However, as the system has broken down this season causing a glut of cocoa and fewer buyers, many farmers have failed to sell their crops while others have been forced to accept less than the 1,100 CFA francs ($1.79) per kg dictated by the government.

Many farmers are now saddled with debt, and farmer cooperatives, which typically distribute fertiliser and other products to their members, are struggling as well.

All 18 co-op directors interviewed by Reuters said they would be unable to help their members prepare their plantations for next season.

"We don't have any money. We haven't even paid for last year's fertiliser because of this situation and our suppliers won't take credit this year," Germain Kabore, who manages a co-op near the town of Daloa, told Reuters.

Across western Ivory Coast, shops selling fertiliser and pesticides have largely closed due to a lack of customers.

"All the stock I've had from January is still there. I haven't sold a single box or bag of fertiliser. It's all still there. No one is coming to buy," said Mamadou Keita, who runs a shop in the town of Soubre.

($1 = 615.9500 CFA francs) (Writing by Joe Bavier; editing by Jason Neely)

© Thomson Reuters 2017 All rights reserved

Labeling saw suits fail to get traction.

The law suit that was dismissed is the the big important Doe vs. Nestlé that is going back to trial in the 9th District.

This is actually 3 separate class action law suits alleging the companies should have disclosed that child slavery is used to harvest their beans on the chocolate bar labels. The court through it out because it doesn't consider itself to have jurisdiction over labeling. 

Culpability still exists. This was only about labeling.

Nestle, Hershey Class Action Child Slavery Lawsuit Dismissed

A California federal judge dismissed two class actions against Nestle USA Inc. and Hershey Co. alleging that the companies should disclose on their packaging that their cocoa beans are harvested by child slaves. A similar class action against Mars Inc. was dismissed by another judge in February of this year. Read More




Nestlé, Cargill, and ADM lose opportunity of the Supreme Court to review their case.

What the following article means is this: The Supreme Court refused to review the suit. They only review a small fraction of what is sent to them, so it is no surprise and was most likely a stall tactic from the Nestlé side. Now this suit get thrown back to the 9th Circuit where it will be in process of going to trail. Basically, the US Supreme Court doesn't review until it has to, and it left it to the 9th Circuit to continue. 

Nestle Loses Bid For High Court Review In Child Slavery Suit
By Joe Van Acker

Law360, New York (January 11, 2016, 3:44 PM ET) -- The U.S. Supreme Court revealed Monday that it will not hear a bid by Nestle USA Inc., Archer Daniels Midland Co. and Cargill Incorporated Co. to overturn a decision allowing former child slaves to proceed with their suit accusing the companies of propping up a torturous chattel system to get cheap African cocoa.

In their petition to the high court, Nestle and the others claimed that the Ninth Circuit interpreted the Alien Tort Statute too broadly when it allowed the suit to proceed in 2014, arguing that the statute’s aiding-and-abetting provisions only apply to businesses that intentionally break the rules.

However, Nestle maintained on Monday that the law is on its side and said that it looks forward to proceeding to the merits of the case.

“The use of child labor is unacceptable and goes against everything Nestle stands for,” the company said in a statement. “Nestle is committed to following and respecting all international laws and is dedicated to the goal of eradicating child labor from our cocoa supply chain.”

Facing off against the corporate defendants are three unnamed Malian laborers looking to certify a class covering thousands of other children who were trafficked from their homeland to Cote d'Ivoire to harvest cocoa beans that were later used in the companies’ products.

Nestle uses the beans for candy bars and other products, while ADM and Cargill process them into cocoa liquor, cocoa butter, chocolate and other goods, according to court filings.

In their 2005 complaint, the John Does alleged that they underwent a harrowing ordeal that began when they were taken as early as age 12 and forced to start working on cocoa plantations, where they remained for years, subject to whippings, meager provisions and mutilation at the hands of their captors.

Five years into the suit, U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson granted the companies’ motion to dismiss, finding that a corporate agent can be sued under the Alien Tort Statute but a corporation itself cannot, prompting an appeal from the former slaves.

The Ninth Circuit said that, after essentially lying dormant for 200 years, the ATS was given new life in 1980 by a Second Circuit ruling allowing two Paraguayan citizens to sue a police officer from that country who tortured and killed their son.

That case eventually reached the Supreme Court, which held that the law provides U.S. federal courts with jurisdiction to hear hybrid common law-international law tort claims.

Based on that decision, and the fact that private citizens faced slavery claims during the Nuremberg Trials after the Holocaust, the Ninth Circuit concluded that the global prohibition of slavery provides victims with legal recourse against anyone, not just state actors.

After Nestle, Cargill and ADM petitioned the Supreme Court for a review of that decision, the former slaves said the companies’ appeal was premature because they intend to amend their complaint as Judge Wilson allowed, and because the Ninth Circuit simply said their allegations were sufficient to proceed.

Paul Hoffman, an attorney for the former slaves, told Law360 that he was “pleased” that the Supreme Court didn’t take the case.

“We and our clients are very pleased that the court is allowing our case to go forward,” he said.

In a statement of its own, Cargill told Law360 that like Nestle, it was disappointed that the petition was denied but eager for the case to begin in earnest.

You'll Never Look at Chocolate the Same

This article was written by Lex Talamo for the Shreveport Times.  It references the Payson Center. The Payson Center is part of Tulane University.  When the Harkin Engel Protocol was signed in 2001 by the chocolate companies, the US Department of Labor hired The Payson Center to write 4 reports on the progress.  In a sense they were the watchdogs of the Protocol.  Each report delivered grim news regarding progress.  After the final report, the Department of Labor kept using the Payson center.  Last year they reported that the situation had gotten worse.  


"During the course of a day, children as young as five years old could be expected to wield sharp instruments such as machetes, carry heavy loads and work during the night or up to 100 hours a week. Other hazardous working conditions included land clearing  or being exposed to agro-chemicals like pesticides or fertilizers.  Read the rest of the article HERE



Letter to Oprah Winfrey

Hi Oprah,

My name is Ayn Riggs and I am the founder and director of Slave Free Chocolate.  We are a small group of people working as activists to eradicate the use of Worst Forms of Child Labor and Child Slavery in the cocoa industry.

I heard in the news that your 2015 list of the your favorite things is out and one item on the list is the Signature Turtle Basket from Phillips Chocolate in Boston.  As I am sure, on the surface, this is a lovely and tasteful product but it seem strange that on organization of your size that has done so many positive things, would not be aware that the chocolate in this gift basket is tied to the Worst Forms of Child Labor and Child Trafficking and Child Slavery.

It is hard to imagine that you would condone this kind of thing.  So on the outset that you didn't know, I invite you to read through the Slave Free Chocolate website.  

Please feel free to contact us to further discuss how you can help change this terrible situation.


Ayn Riggs, Director, Slave Free Chocolate, 760-715-4618


   Two billion dollars will be spent on candy for Halloween.   Awareness of this situation has come a long long way but the numbers of children working under the "worst forms of child labor" and children trafficked to work as slaves on the cocoa farms has risen.  These kids need the help of the western consumers now more than ever.  Vote with your voice. Vote with your dollar.  Demand that Hershey's, Nestlé, Cargill, ADM and the rest make good on their promises of 2001 and remedy this situation.  The money is there, the law suits are going, Ghana and Ivory Coast are more stable. Now is the time.  Let's win this war against modern day slavery.


Two billion dollars will be spent on candy for Halloween.   Awareness of this situation has come a long long way but the numbers of children working under the "worst forms of child labor" and children trafficked to work as slaves on the cocoa farms has risen.  These kids need the help of the western consumers now more than ever.  Vote with your voice. Vote with your dollar.  Demand that Hershey's, Nestlé, Cargill, ADM and the rest make good on their promises of 2001 and remedy this situation.  The money is there, the law suits are going, Ghana and Ivory Coast are more stable. Now is the time.  Let's win this war against modern day slavery.