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Monthly Film Series Presents 'The Dark Side of Chocolate'

By Christopher Renner
Announcement | July 4, 2011

PhotobucketMANHATTAN, Kan. - The Monthly Film Series, sponsored by the Manhattan Alliance for Peace and Justice, presents The Dark Side of Chocolate on Wednesday, July 13th at 6:30 pm at the Manhattan Public Library Auditorium. The public is invited to attend.

Film Synopsis: While we enjoy the sweet taste of chocolate, the reality is strikingly different for African children. Since the '90s numerous non-governmental organizations working in the Ivory Coast and Ghana have reported the use of children as slaves on cocoa plantations. The Ivory Coast alone produces about 43% of the world's cocoa beans. The simple truth is that all the heavily advertised chocolate, M&Ms, Hersey, Godiva, and Nestlé, is made by child slave laborers.

Estimates placed the number of cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast at approximately 600,000. The number of children working these farms is estimated as high as 15,000. Young boys from the age 12 to 16 are forced to work on cocoa farms in order to harvest the beans from which chocolate is made. Most boys that are forced to work on these farms come from Mali were slave trader agents hang around bus stations looking for children who are alone or begging for food.

They lour the kids to travel to the Ivory Coast with them and then sell them to slave traders who are in need of cheap labor. Once the children are on the farm, they are forced to over work and are not feed or paid properly. They are often forced to eat corn paste as their meal and at night the children are locked up to prevent escape. The Ivorian farmers are usually located in areas in which most people do not travel.

In 2001 consumers around the world were outraged to discover that child labor and slavery, trafficking, and other abuses existed on cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast and Ghana. An avalanche of negative publicity and consumer demands for answers and solutions soon followed.

Two members of US Congress, Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa and Representative Eliot Engel of New York, tackled the issue by adding a rider to an agricultural bill proposing a federal system to certify and label chocolate products as "slave free".

The measure passed the House of Representatives and created a potential disaster for Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland Mars, Hershey's, Nestlé, Barry Callebaut, Saf-Cacao and other chocolate manufacturers. To avoid legislation that would have forced chocolate companies to label their products with "no child labor" labels (for which many major chocolate manufacturers wouldn't qualify), the industry fought back and finally agreed to a voluntary protocol to end abusive and forced child labor on cocoa farms by 2005. But by 2005 the cocoa industry had failed to comply, and a new deadline for 2008 was established. In 2008 the terms of the protocol were still not met, and yet another deadline for 2010 was set.

Almost a decade after the chocolate companies, concerned governments and specially foundations spent millions of dollars in an effort to eradicate child labor and trafficking in the international cocoa trade, has anything changed?

Danish journalist Miki Mistrati and U. Roberto Romano launch a behind-the-scenes investigation and verify if these allegations of child labor in the chocolate industry are present today.

Learn more:

Dark Side of Chocolate - Film's website.
Chocolate and Slavery: Child Labor in Cote d'Ivoire, TED Case Study by Samlanchith Chanthavong.
Slavery Free Chocolate, Brooke Shelby Biggs, AlterNet, February 7, 2002.
The Dark Side of Chocolate, Judith Kneen, The Guardian UK, April 3, 2007.
Chocolate's bittersweet economy, Christian Parenti, CNN Money, February 15, 2008.
Is There Child Slavery in Your Chocolate?, John Robbins, Huffington Post, September 24, 2010.
Final Tulane Report on Child Labor in Cocoa, the fifth and final report on oversight of the cocoa industries in Ghana and Ivory Coast in connection with implementation of the Harkin-Engel Protocol to eliminate child labor in the production of chocolate.
Stop Chocolate Slavery:This website is dedicated to raising awareness about the slavery and other labor abuses that taint the vast majority of chocolate products, and to encouraging and facilitating actions aimed at ending those abuses. It is also dedicated to the children who are victims of chocolate slavery and exploitation - we hope that it can contribute in some small way to making their lives better.
Cocoa Campaign at the International Labor Rights Forum.
Slave Free Chocolate: A coalition working to end child slavery on West African cocoa plantations.

Take Action:

Read a report about Hershey Chocolate Corporation from the International Labor Rights Forum.
Send Hershey's an e-mail.


1 Comment

Glad that you, Christopher, and this film, are bringing this issue to light. I learned about the realities of chocolate production just a few years ago and it's just ... I don't know, ironic and shameful that something so sweet and wonderful has such an evil backstory. Folks really should begin to look for, and purchase, fair trade chocolate.


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