The July 2006 Edition of Street Spirit

A publication of the American Friends Service Committee


National AFSC AFSC Economic Justice BOSS Website



In this issue:

Corruption at Oakland Housing Authority

Shot Through the Heart in S.F.

Legal Challenge to Cruel Attacks on SF Homeless

GRIP's Shelter in Richmond

HUD Plans to Demolish Public Housing in New Orleans

Fresno Homeless Attacked

Stonewalling by Bush's ICH on Homeless Issues

Are We Not Our Brother's Keeper

Congress Refuses to Raise the Minimum Wage

Beyond Prisons: Challenge to the Prison System

Penal Servitude

The U.S. Racial Wealth Gap

Poor Working Conditions for Immigrants

AFSC Sues Defense Dept. for Surveillance

Surveillance and Orwell's 1984

Enron's Good Fight

Poor Leonard's Almanack: On Self-Realization

July Poetry of the Streets

Child Slavery on African Cocoa Farms

The Worth of Education in the Phillipines


June 2006

May 2006

April 2006

March 2006

February 2006

January 2006

November 2005

October 2005

September 2005

August 2005

July 2005

June 2005

May 2005

April 2005

March 2005

February 2005




Street Spirit is published by American Friends Service Committee.

All works are copyrighted by the authors.

The views expressed in Street Spirit are those of the individual authors alone, and not necessarily that of the American Friends Service Committee.

Child Slavery on African Cocoa Farms

Over 240,000 children have been sold as slaves in West Africa to work on coffee, cocoa and cotton plantations. They are forced into painful work and inhumane conditions without pay.

by Nooshin Shabani

Children in West Africa are abducted and sold to farmers as slaves. Photo by GVN

Most of our children play with teddy bears, while children in West Africa play with machetes. Why? So you can enjoy your cup of coffee. Coffee culture is rapidly growing and the demand for chocolate never seems to stop. For every candy bar we buy, more children are forced into child slavery on cocoa farms.

Over 67 percent of the world's cocoa comes from West Africa. As the trading wheel of injustice spins, children are tortured, farmers go hungry, and large companies such as Nestle and Cadburys make a profit. When we consume more chocolate, the demand for cocoa increases, and so it would seem that farmers can make money to feed their family from the fruits of their labor. Unfortunately that is not the case, as it's the corrupted trading system which dictates the price.

Instead, global companies charge high prices for their products, but refuse to pay a fair price for cocoa beans, the primary ingredient needed for the coffee and chocolate they sell. As a result, farmers sell their beans to middlemen who then negotiate trading prices to sell on to companies. Farmers only receive half the amount of money the beans are originally bought for, as the middleman receives the rest. In most cases they do not make a profit.

Desperate farmers transform into corrupted farmers and become involved in the business of child trafficking. Young children wandering the streets of Ghana, and Cote d'Ivoire are lured by traffickers who promise them a life where they can earn an honest wage so they don't go hungry.

Opportunity knocks at the wrong door, as children are then abducted and sold to farmers as slaves. They are forced into painful work, long days in inhumane conditions without pay, and with little food.

Work includes using machetes to cut the cacao pods from high branches, and applying pesticides without protective equipment. Dangerous days and fearful nights make up the life of child slaves.

Young children are psychologically deceived into staying on the farm. If they are brave enough, and attempt to escape back home to their parents, they are beaten, whipped, and tortured.
Over 240,000 children have been sold as slaves in West Africa to work on coffee, cocoa, and cotton plantations, and 15,000 of those children are between the ages of 9 to 12. While our children attend school, the children we have forgotten dream of such opportunities. These children don't receive their basic right to an education; instead, they have a tortured life of abuse and daily beatings so you can have your Milky Way.

It's a tricky cycle to break, as cocoa beans produced by slaves are hard to detect. Once the farmer gives his goods to the middleman to sell, the beans are taken to a warehouse and mixed with beans produced by paid workers. At this stage, companies try to evade blame by stating they have no way of detecting which beans are from slave-free farms. If we refuse to use all cocoa, then farmers would be under more pressure, which would result in more cases of child slavery.

Global companies need to make their products adhere to fair trade. If they pay the farmers a minimum wage, farmers are obliged to form an agreement which states their working standards are democratic with no slavery involved, and their cocoa is of good quality. Direct business will mean the middleman is no longer needed and farmers can reap what they sow.

It all sounds very fair and simple, so why don't all products have the fair trade label on? Because companies like Nestle are quite happy making $65 billion a year. While we blissfully sip our hot chocolate, we taste the blood of another child.

"A poor man's field may produce abundant food, but injustice sweeps it away." -- Proverbs 13:23

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