Child Labor

"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

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.

C.R.E.E.R. Africa is looking for an intern.

Duration: Four months minimum.
Location: Abengourou, Moyen-Comoe, Cote d'Ivoire
Your role will be different, this is a chance to sow the seeds for the start of this centre. You can really make an impact. Depending on your skill set and experience, volunteers at C.R.E.E.R can take on a variety of roles and responsibilities. You will have an Outreach Worker living on site with you.
We're looking for our 2nd Coordinator with ideas, drive & initiative for our NGO; after four years of preparation, C.R.E.E.R is finally starting! Our current Coordinator is doing a fantastic job but will sadly be leaving us!
You might be wanting a change in life or a post-graduate student looking to get some experience; it could give someone the chance to write a thesis at the same time.
We are working to prevent young girls and boys from being trafficked into exploitative working conditions. We're offering a shelter to rehabilitate those children who have escaped their situation & living on the streets.
We will be providing education, vocational training, shelter, protection, community outreach, and youth leadership training to at-risk individuals and communities.
We are always open to new ideas and projects that utilize volunteers' unique strengths and creativity! This position is ideal for someone with long-term goals or interests related to alternative education, nonprofit administration, communications and media, child protection, or human trafficking prevention.
Your role which will take about 2-3h per day may include:
• Coordinating finances & administration on site
• Facilitating extracurricular activities with the children
• Producing and coordinating social media and communications,blog and newsletter
• Photography and/or videography for social media
• Writing grant reports and proposals
• Actively fundraising and marketing
• Meeting dignitaries & receiving visitors, possibly giving presentations on the organisation
• Attending events and meetings
• Helping in other areas based on your skill set, such as DIY
• Directly reporting to the Founder & Ivoirian Board; on site & off site
Preferred Experience:
• Background, coursework, or demonstrated interest in issues of child protection, statelessness, gender inequality, nonprofit administration, and/or international development
• Outstanding communication and organizational skills
• Ability to work independently and proactively identify solutions to problems
• Ability to work in a cross-cultural environment and navigate language and cultural barriers
• Flexibility, patience, and adaptability
• Ability to manage a wide array of tasks and priorities
• Excellent spoken and written English or French but with a reasonable spoken profiency in both
• Sense of humor and a positive attitude
Preferred qualifications:
• Teaching/Social work experience and/or experience working with children and young people
• Experience in a developing country
• Experience volunteering and/or working for a nonprofit or NGO
• Experience in an office environment and/or in administration
• Bilingual English/French language skills a major plus
If you've read this far & are still interested in applying, please e-mail us a cover letter explaining what you are able to offer us along with your CV to
Compensation details
C.R.E.E.R does not provide any salary or living stipend to volunteers, nor do we charge any fees to volunteer with us.
Volunteers must be able to fund their flight, visa, transportation & living costs but you will have a room to live in (although fairly basic at this early stage)
A motorbike is provided to get around town (shared with Outreach Worker).
Volunteers should be able to finance their stay with private fundraising and grants.
[8/30/15, 8:46:31 AM] Anglais Aerien Afrique: Volunteer Coordinator
Chance to sow the seeds at a new rehabilitation centre for street & trafficked children.
 Côte d'Ivoire

Contact Chole Grant for more information.  You can find contact information at C.R.E.E.R.

Nestlé tackles PR troubles and publicly promises change.

Nestlé announced that their KitKat bars in Japan are going to only have ethically sourced cocoa.  This comes right off of the report that the the amount of children working in the cocoa fields of West Africa has risen from 1.8 million to 2.3 since it was last reported.


Child labour on Nestlé farms: chocolate giant's problems continue

Auditors completing their annual report continue to find evidence of child labour on Ivory Coast farms supplying Nestlé

Children younger than 15 continue to work at cocoa farms connected to Nestlé, more than a decade after the food company promised to end the use of child labour in its supply chain.

A new report by the Fair Labor Association (FLA), commissioned by Nestlé, saw researchers visit 260 farms used by the company in Ivory Coast from September to December 2014. The researchers found 56 workers under the age of 18, of which 27 were under 15.

               The rest of the article on The Guardian

Bloomberg picks up story about Hershey Investors Suing over Child Labor

Last fall two law suits came out with decisions that went in favor of the cocoa kids and not in favor of the chocolate companies.  We are happy to see that Bloomberg picked up the following story!  --SFC

Hershey Investors Suing Over Child Labor Can Pursue Files by Jeff Feeley  Bloomberg News

March 19 (Bloomberg) -- Hershey Co., the largest chocolate maker in the U.S., was ordered to face a lawsuit by investors seeking to force it to turn over records about cocoa from African farms that may use illegal child labor. 

A Louisiana pension fund raised legitimate questions about Hershey executives’ knowledge of how much of the company’s cocoa, grown in West Africa, may have been produced by child slaves, Delaware Chancery Court Judge Travis Laster said yesterday. He overruled a master’s recommendation that the shareholders’ request to see cocoa-supply chain records be denied. 

West Africa, including top growers Ghana and Ivory Coast, accounts for about 70 percent of the world’s cocoa-bean production. Pressure to manufacture chocolate without harming children may grow as global sales of sweets head toward a record in 2014 and candy makers process more beans, according to data by Euromonitor International Ltd.  

The suit’s allegations create “a reasonable inference about the possibility” some cocoa Hershey officials bought from Ghana and Ivory Coast suppliers may be tainted by the use of illegal child labor, Laster said at a hearing in Wilmington, Delaware. Those questions may be “sufficient to warrant further investigation,” he said. 

See rest of the article at Bloomberg News