CNN correspondent David McKenzie traveled into the heart of the Ivory Coast to investigate children working in the cocoa fields. His documentary "Chocolate's Child Slaves, premiers Friday January 20, 9 CET on CNN International. David is answering your questions from the comments section here:
Martha Johnson asks “What is the motivation of this documentary?”
Thanks Martha. The documentary is based on a simple premise. Ten years after chocolate companies promised to end child slavery and child labor in the cocoa plantations of West Africa, have they kept that promise? It’s about keeping them honest and holding them to their promises. We traveled into the cocoa fields to find the truth. And I think the truth is shocking and the promises have not been kept. As part of our Freedom Project initiative, CNN is investigating the scourge of modern day slavery wherever it exists.
Chima Etochukwu asks, “Why is almost every thing [the media report] about Africa on war and slavery?”
I hear what you are saying Chima. My take is this: if children are being exploited, particularly children who end up working on farms that supply some of the world’s most profitable brands, then we are compelled to tell that story. However, what you say isn’t the case with CNN’s programming on Africa. Every week we have three shows that highlight Africa. In African Voices we interview influential personalities, on Inside Africa we tell a wide breadth of stories from all over the continent, and on Marketplace Africa we have tapped into the amazing business stories coming out of an increasingly vital cog in the world economy. Finally, our nightly business show Global Exchange focuses on the growing importance of emerging markets. Take a look at some of these shows. I would love to hear what you think!
Bloom Angel asks, “There are so many kids in this condition and we cant do anything, where is government?”
Hi Bloom. I think there is always something you can do. Every change starts with a single person. If you want to do something about it, then contact chocolate companies, or lawmakers, or just continue the discussion with your friends. Most activists I have spoken to – and what I have learnt from our reporting – lead me to believe that the government of Ivory Coast hasn’t done nearly enough to fix this issue. Politics and recent history does play into it. Since 2002, the government in Ivory Coast (or Cote d’Ivoire in French) has been crippled by a series of political crises. But consider this, in 2011, one of the more violent years in the country’s recent past, cocoa production was up by 25 percent. If they can get cocoa to market, then they can get people into the farms to spread the message. The new government has pledged to reform the cocoa industry, but it wouldn’t be the first time this has been promised.
Pradeepa Jeeva asks, “Which companies in America use this chocolate for their products?”
That’s a great question Pradeepa. And the answer is interesting and complex. All the major companies globally source cocoa from West Africa. So pretty much any famous brand you can think of uses cocoa from Ivory Coast. Very few chocolate companies can trace where exactly their cocoa comes from and whether child slavery has been used in its production. As an example, Nestle told CNN that they can only trace 20 percent of their cocoa supply (that is why they have sent a team to investigate their supply chain). Only a few Fair Trade chocolate brands can confidently say that no trafficked children are used on their farms.
Tamakloe John Onyx asks, "Child labour is as evil as a slave trade. I'm against it but who will care for these children to live a comfortable life if those jobs are abolished?"
It's a good point Tamakloe. But it's important to note that these children aren't working in jobs. The ones we met weren’t paid for their work and they weren’t given a proper place to stay or an education. UNICEF says that two hundred thousand children are working in the farms of Ivory Coast. Most of those are working in terrible conditions, and many are trafficked across the border to get there. But you raise a good point. Ultimately it is important that schools are built for the children so they have an opportunity to learn, not to just work.
Joanne Lee asks, "Should we still continue to support the chocolate industry? What should we do to end child slavery, but these kids to school?
Hi Joanne. The consumer certainly holds a lot of power. If everyone demanded that all chocolate is fair trade, then the industry would do more to stop child trafficking. But, as I am sure you can imagine, that is probably not going to happen. So the best thing, I think, is to start a conversation about the issue. The children we met have never eaten chocolate. They don’t even know what cocoa is for. If word gets out on the conditions, then I think change will happen faster. A great place to talk and find out about these issues is on this blog.
@LiveTheNoise asks "Is buying fair trade the only way to fight this? What are other ways that you've seen? #EndSlavery
There are many ways to get involved. One way is to buy fair trade chocolate. But fair trade is only a tiny percentage of the chocolate industry’s output. And in many countries, for example here in Kenya, it can be very hard to find it. One way would be to contact companies and ask them to supply more fair trade chocolate to your market. But I really do think it is about a mindset. I think if people know about what is going on to children like Yacou and Abdul, then the change can be possible.
Dorna Dorin asks, "What’s happening is really terrible, why can’t the government increase their export charges, so that the farmers are paid better?
Cocoa is a commodity, the price is set on the world markets. Your suggestion might be a good one, but I think ultimately the answer would be to somehow move the value of the cocoa towards the farmers on the ground. The Ivory Coast government sets the price of cocoa for farmers, they have promised to reform the trade in their country. Many of the farmers we met, however, get paid even less by the middlemen. Ultimately, if people were willing to pay a little more or if the companies and government were willing to earn a little less and pass it onto farmers, then I think change could happen.
Anne Kukali asks, “Why are parents of kids working in factory not prosecuted for being irresponsible? Should factory owners or employers be tried at the Hague in the Netherlands?”
Hi Anne, that is a very good question for two reasons. First, Ivory Coast officials told us that they have new stricter laws to prosecute traffickers and people using children on their farms, but even they admit that very few of them are being prosecuted. The United Nations told us the same thing. Unfortunately, laws have little effect if they aren’t enforced. Second, slavery is illegal under international law, so technically cases could be brought at an international court. But most people believe that the ultimate answer is to fix the system rather than punish the perpetrators.
Lani Galang asks, “How long has this child slavery been going on?”
Hi Lani, the trade from Ivory Coast has been going on for a long time. In the 1980s it expanded rapidly and the then government encouraged workers from neighboring countries to work on the plantations. I can't tell you exactly when child slavery became a major issue. But at the turn of the millennium news reports surfaced about exploitation in the Ivory Coast and that's what pushed chocolate companies to sign the Harkin Engel protocol that promised to end the practice. So to see slaves still working on the farms was particularly tragic.
Carmen Schuett writes: We have children working with parents on farms, in the family business here in the west- how do you encourage a family to maintain their livelihood and force restrictions on them while trying to stop the trafficking of children? The families that have chosen to keep their children with them will try to meet the requirements while the traffickers will always break the law? Family farms who make their livelihood from coffee have also received a backlash because of ‘fair trade restrictions.’”
Hello Carmen, that's true, children work and help out on farms all over the world. What the UN, International Labor Organization, and other groups focus on are 'the worst forms of child labor'. You can find the definition online, but basically it entails children doing dangerous work at a young age (like using machetes and pesticides). We found evidence of this in the Ivory Coast. In some places in Africa they have figured out a way to schedule school around harvest time or evening school after farm work.