The dark secret of chocolate - No. 12

Report   The dark secret of
No.      chocolate
         A report on the working conditions
         on the cocoa farms of West Africa


           SwedWatch   ●   The dark secret of chocolate   1
SwedWatch is a non-religious and non-political voluntary organization. Its mission is to review
the trade and activities of Swedish companies in developing countries, in order to reduce
unsatisfactory social and environmental conditions. SwedWatch has five member
organizations: Church of Sweden, Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, Fair Trade Center,
Education for Aid Activities/Latin America and Friends of the Earth Sweden.

The Church of Sweden works for a just world without hunger, poverty and oppression. The
Church of Sweden works to exert an influence on public opinion, and works with
development cooperation and emergency relief work together with local partners in around
40 countries.

        West Africa

    Atlantic Ocean               (Ivory Coast)

Title: The dark secret of chocolate.
Cover photo: Issouf Sanago/Pressens bild.
Authors: Örjan Bartholdson and Mats Valentin, SwedWatch.
May 2006.

This document has been published with financial support from Sida, but Sida has not
participated in the design nor does it take a position on the content of the document.

2      SwedWatch    ●   The dark secret of chocolate
Chocolate and cocoa comprise a product that clearly links consumption patterns in the
North with working conditions for farmers and farm workers in the South. For most
Swedes, various types of chocolate products are a source of pleasure and joy. But for
many farmers and farm workers, cocoa production is associated with terrible working
conditions, poor wages and major health risks.

Several organisations working with development cooperation and human rights have
drawn attention to the serious situation. In 2000 and 2001 several alarming reports
showed that children were suffering on the cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast. These
promoted a reaction from both cocoa companies and political decision-makers, but
progress is slow and major problems remain. Our report confirms that there have only
been marginal improvements in conditions so far, and that the working conditions for
thousands of workers and farmers are totally unacceptable.

The Church of Sweden is positive to the initiatives taken by the chocolate-producing
companies as a result of the Harkin-Engels Protocol. However, we feel that the
problems are still so serious, and that the progress towards improved conditions is too
slow, that the problems must be given a higher profile in Swedish public debate than
has been the case so far.

We feel it is important that attention is drawn to child trafficking and the use of child
labour on the farms, but it is also important to highlight the problem from a broader
perspective of worker rights. The discussion and measures must be based on the
working conditions of both the child workers and the older workers, which is what the
report tries to illustrate.

We hope that the report will stimulate a discussion about how companies and
consumers can improve the conditions for those people working in cocoa production.

May 2006

Karin Lexén
Policy Manager, Church of Sweden

                                      SwedWatch   ●   The dark secret of chocolate     3
Summary                                                                              6

Part 1: The dark secret of chocolate                                               12
1.2 Cocoa cultivation                                                              13
1.3 Trends in the price of cocoa – a bad deal for the farmer                       13
1.4 Work on the cocoa farms                                                        15
1.5 Child labour and child trafficking in West Africa                              16
1.6 Poverty creates child labour                                                   17

Part 2: Environmental problems                                                     22

Part 3: The tough conditions in the Ivory Coast                                    23
3.1 The Ivory Coast – a country in conflict                                        23
3.2 Cocoa – a crop used in the conflict                                            25
3.3 The Ivory Coast’s trading structure                                            25
3.4 Human rights and labour rights in the Ivory Coast                              26

Cocoa is harvested regularly, and the harvest takes place all year round. Machinery cannot be
used during the harvest, because the fruits on the same tree ripen at different rates. The ripe
pods are cut down with machetes. After just over a week, the pods are opened, and the wet
cocoa beans are removed for drying. They are then packed in sacks for export to the buyers,
who are mainly in Europe and USA.
Photo: Issouf Sanago/Pressens bild.

4      SwedWatch    ●   The dark secret of chocolate
3.5 Child labour on the farms in the Ivory Coast                               28
3.6 Forced labour                                                              31
3.9 Pesticides                                                                 31
3.10 The difficult conditions for the workers                                  32
3.11 Interviews with cocoa workers                                             34
3.12 Interviews with owners of the cocoa farms                                 35
3.13 Conclusion: the vicious cycle in the Ivory Coast                          37

Part 4: The problems in Ghana                                                  39
4.1 Trading structure in Ghana                                                 39
4.2 Human rights and labour rights in Ghana                                    39
4.3 Incidence of child labour                                                  42
4.5 Working conditions                                                         43

Part 5: Initiatives to reduce child labour in cocoa production                 45
5.1 American proposal for legislative amendments forces the companies
to take action                                                                 45

Part 6: What are the chocolate companies doing to reduce the problem           47
6.1 Cloetta Fazer                                                              47
6.2 Kraft Foods                                                                48
6.3 Nestlé                                                                     49

Part 7: Initiatives to improve the farmers’ situation                          51
7.1 Fairtrade/Rättvisemärkt and KRAV-labelled chocolate                        51
7.2 Cooperatives                                                               51

Conclusion                                                                     53

Recommendations                                                                59

Footnotes                                                                      61

References                                                                     64

Appendix 1 – Comments by the companies                                         67
Comments by Cloetta Fazer                                                      67
Comments by Kraft Foods                                                        68
Comments by Nestlé                                                             70

                                     SwedWatch   ●   The dark secret of chocolate   5
We see positive messages about chocolate everywhere, and the health-enhancing
properties of cocoa are lauded. This is mainly due to the skilful marketing of chocolate
products in Sweden by the chocolate companies. Advertisements, articles and features
in newspapers and on radio and TV promote all the positive benefits of chocolate.

But chocolate has a dark side that seldom reaches the media. People producing the
cocoa used in the chocolate sold in Sweden are often forced to work in very difficult
conditions. Many of these are children and young people. In cooperation with the
Church of Sweden through Church of Sweden, SwedWatch has carried out a survey of
the working conditions on cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast and Ghana.

Responsibilities of the chocolate companies
The survey shows that the chocolate companies operating in Sweden, Kraft Foods,
Nestlé and Cloetta Fazer, cannot guarantee that their products are produced in a way
that respects human rights. The conditions for both farmers and workers are worst in
the Ivory Coast.

Kraft Foods products include the well-known chocolate brands of Marabou,
Toblerone, Twist, Dajm and Japp. Cloetta Fazer’s products include Dumle,
Kexchoklad, Geisha and Plopp, while Nestlé markets After Eight, Kit Kat and

A fundamental reason why people working on the cocoa farms are so vulnerable is that
the farmers are paid too little for their cocoa. This has serious repercussions for both
the farmer and the workers. Small-scale farmers grow nearly 90 percent of all the
cocoa produced in the Ivory Coast, on farms of less than five hectares. The situation is
the same in Ghana.

Profitability is very low. The price of cocoa beans has fallen drastically since the
1980s, and is now only a quarter of what it was 20 years ago. One of the strategies that
the cocoa farmers employ to try to survive the crisis is to force down the price of
labour as much as possible.

Children exploited on the farms
What have attracted most attention in the media are the children working under
slavery-like conditions on the cocoa farms. However, children that suffer on the
farms comprise only a small part of the workforce. Most of the people living in
very difficult conditions on the farms are men over 18 years old. Virtually all
measures taken by international associations, states and non-governmental
organisations are aimed at reducing hazardous child labour, and the situation for
normal workers has been overlooked, which is a problem. Mechanisms must be
found that respect the rights of both groups. This report also shows that many
adults started working as children and then continued into adult life. The
vulnerability of the children, young people and adults on the cocoa farms
comprises an integrated whole.

 6     SwedWatch   ●   The dark secret of chocolate
An intensive international debate has considered the actual scale of child trafficking.
However, such a discussion risks concealing the social and economic structures
relating to child labour. By all accounts only a small proportion of the child workers
are sold by professional traffickers. Many young people under 18 years of age move
voluntarily to earn money for the family and themselves. Often a relative or friend
has told them what to do and whom they should contact. The majority of those
interviewed in the SwedWatch survey report they were recruited by a representative
from a farm, usually a relative, who then arranges transport to the farm. There are
also professional agents that smuggle groups of people from Mali and Burkina Faso
in to the Ivory Coast and Ghana, and then deposit them at different cocoa farms.

Regardless of how the children and young people end up on the farms, they can get
into trouble. The biggest problems are the lack of formal agreements and all forms of
monitoring, so they are totally unprotected. Many of the children and young people
are related to the owners of the farms, which usually means they are treated a little
better than those that have no ties to the owner at all.

The worst problems on the cocoa farms

Hazardous child labour
Hazardous child labour occurs primarily on farms in the Ivory Coast, but also in
Ghana. However, this is a highly sensitive issue politically, and international reports
and organisations describe the phenomenon differently. Both the Ivory Coast and
Ghana have ratified ILO Convention No. 182, in which the countries undertake to
ensure that children do not work with activities that jeopardise their health.
According to a recent survey, involving and funded by the chocolate industry, just
over 200,000 children and young people work under hazardous conditions in the
Ivory Coast.

Unlike Ghana, the Ivory Coast has ratified ILO Convention No. 138 about the
minimum age for employment. This convention states that children under 14 may not
be employed, and children under 18 may not work with activities that jeopardise
health. However, surveys by SwedWatch and other organisations indicate that this
convention is not applied.

The work on the farms is strenuous, and the heavy lifting can cause skeletal and
muscular injuries. Furthermore, many children are seriously injured when they work
with machetes. Another problem is that the children often handle dangerous
pesticides, and without safety equipment. No safety equipment was available on any
of the farms that were included in the SwedWatch survey. In addition, hours of work
are seldom regulated.

Trafficking of children, young people and adults
Trafficking and smuggling of workers to the cocoa farms occurs in both the Ivory
Coast and Ghana. The workers come mainly from the neighbouring countries of
Burkina Faso and Mali.

However, the most common procedure is that agents know both the farm owner and
people in the villages where they recruit labour. The main reasons why children and
young people look for work on the cocoa farms are the low standard of living in the

                                      SwedWatch   ●   The dark secret of chocolate    7
neighbouring countries, and the need to generate income for both themselves and
for their families. In the work to improve the situation for children and young
people, it is important to consider all forms of recruitment, and not to focus simply
on trafficking.

Vulnerability of the migrant workers
The majority of the workers on the cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast are foreign nationals,
mainly from Burkina Faso and Mali. These workers often lack formal residence permits
in the country, so they are very vulnerable. It also makes it difficult to fulfil the
requirement to give them formal employment contracts. The armed conflict in the Ivory
Coast has further exacerbated their situation. The government has claimed that many of
the migrant workers are allied with the rebel forces in the northern part of the country,
so they are exposed to reprisals from the government forces. Many workers and even
farmers have been forced to return to their home countries. This problem affects adults,
as well as children and young people.

Forced labour
By all accounts, forced labour occurs on the cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast. ILO, the
UN body for labour rights, defines forced labour as work or service demanded of a
person under threat of punishment. Some of the people interviewed in the SwedWatch
survey said they had experienced this. The most usual way of preventing workers from
leaving a farm is, quite simply, that they are not paid until after one year, so they do not
want to, or cannot, leave the farm in spite of poor treatment.

Many workers interviewed by SwedWatch said that they had been punished in
various ways when the employer was dissatisfied with them. An example is that
employers have refused to give food to people that were ill.

Employers commonly pay for travel and bribes so that the workers can come to the
farms in question from one of the neighbouring countries. They have then deducted
these costs from the workers’ wages, which is not always agreed upon in advance.

The farmers and workers interviewed report that they have not been given any training
in handling pesticides. Some say that the person selling the pesticide has provided
information. The workers also say that they use the chemicals without any safety
equipment at all, i.e. no gloves and facemasks. This causes both serious accidents and
chronic injury from toxins.

Many of those people interviewed on the farms in Ghana deny that
children are used as labour when pesticides are being used, except when
they fetch water to mix with the pesticides. Others say that they use child
labour in all phases in the cultivation of cocoa, including those having to
do with pesticides. A conclusion from this is that the children used for
fetching water are probably also exposed to the pesticides when they walk
through the sprayed areas.

In the Ivory Coast, all the respondents report that they work with pesticides, and
several say that they became ill afterwards. None of them had used safety equipment,
nor had they received medical treatment.

8      SwedWatch   ●   The dark secret of chocolate
One of the pesticides that the workers say they have used is Paraquat. This
substance is very hazardous, both for people and the environment. Eye injuries,
skin rashes and nosebleeding are common among those that work with the
substance. Paraquat attacks the lungs and can, at worst, cause death through
suffocation. Paraquat also accumulates in the ground, so the groundwater can be

Lack of formal contracts
Workers that SwedWatch interviewed in the Ivory Coast and in Ghana have no formal
contracts. Consequently, it is difficult for the workers to claim breach of contract.
They are not paid overtime, even if the agreed hours of work are exceeded. There is no
regulation of working conditions, no social protection, and no guarantee that the
workers are paid the amount agreed with the employer at the start.

Difficult to organise themselves collectively
For several decades, both Ghana and the Ivory Coast have been among the countries
ratifying ILO Conventions No. 87 and No. 98 about the right to organise and bargain
collectively. However, this does not seem to have led to any tangible improvements
for the workers engaged in cocoa production.

The interviewed workers in both Ghana and the Ivory Coast said they had never heard of trade
unions. In Ghana, the TUC trade union tried to organise farmworkers, but had not succeeded in
covering the whole of the country. Furthermore, the farm workers often felt that they had no time
and opportunity to take part in the work of the trade unions.

Workers do not seem to be organised at all in the Ivory Coast, so there is no party
to represent them in disputes or in different fora.

Salaries too low to live on
The workers themselves say that their biggest problem is the low pay, which is inadequate to
support themselves and their families. SwedWatch’s survey also shows that the employers often
pay a lower wage than that agreed at the start. The lowest wages are paid to the children and young
people that work on the farms.

                                     SwedWatch   ●   The dark secret of chocolate     9
What is being done to improve the situation
The alarming reports in 2001 about children suffering on cocoa farms in the Ivory
Coast helped to force both cocoa companies and political decision-makers into
action. The chocolate industry, the governments of the United States and the Ivory
Coast, and human rights organisations agreed on an action plan, the Harkin-Engel
Protocol, to improve the poor conditions. The action plan contained five date-
specific goals that were to be attained. The most important targets were to conduct a
thorough survey of the scale of the problem and to develop a monitoring and
certification system for cocoa production that was completely independent of the
chocolate industry. This system was to be in place by 1 July 2005. The aim was that
inspectors were to make random inspections of cocoa farms, in order to guarantee
that the cocoa was produced under acceptable working conditions.

Cocoa’s route to the consumer is complicated. At present, a series of interim stages
between the chocolate manufacturers and the cultivators makes it difficult to trace the
cocoa back to a specific farm. This is one of the reasons for the delay in the
introduction of an overall monitoring and certification system. According to the latest
information, this will not now come into effect until 1 July 2008. The UN body for
labour rights, ILO, is the advisor to the Protocol.

In 2002 the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI) foundation was set up, based in Geneva.
The foundation includes both the international cocoa and chocolate industry and
human rights organisations. The main purpose is to work to eliminate the worst forms
of child labour in cocoa production (ILO Convention No. 182). This is to be done
through monitoring work in the field in West Africa and through political lobbying.
ICI has also started pilot projects in the Ivory Coast and Ghana that are to serve as
models for sustainable and just production of cocoa. ILO’s programme for eliminating
child labour, IPEC, supports ICI with resources, advice and statistical data.

The Swedish chocolate producers are helping to develop the monitoring system
described above through their membership of the trade organisation, CAOBISCO. This
organisation is one of the driving forces in developing the monitoring and certification
system, which has been postponed until 1 July 2008. However, the Swedish chocolate
industry lacks control over the conditions on the cocoa farms.

Several non-governmental organisations are also working actively to improve the
situation for those children working on the cocoa farms. Save the Children Canada has
devoted a lot of resources to the problem, and has conducted lobbying activities in an
attempt to help the different parties keep to the time schedule for the action plan
specified in the Harkin-Engel Protocol.

Sustainable Tree Crops Programme is an institute formed by countries and the
chocolate industry. It runs projects aimed at increasing the cocoa farmers’
understanding of sustainable cultivation, so that they can increase their income. The
programme does this through training courses for cocoa farmers, the Farmer Field
Schools. Farmers achieving greater profitability can, for example, treat their
workforce better and reduce the use of child labour. The Sustainable Tree Crops
Programme works under the auspices of the International Institute for Tropical

10      SwedWatch   ●   The dark secret of chocolate
Both Save the Children Canada and the UN children’s rights organisation, UNICEF,
are engaged in projects in Burkina Faso and Mali aimed at preventing children and
young people being exploited on the cocoa farms of the Ivory Coast and Ghana.

Even if most human rights associations feel that the Harkin-Engel Protocol is a step in the right
direction, they stress that the main reason why people suffer on the cocoa farms is that the farmers
are paid too little for their cocoa.

One of the recommendations of SwedWatch and The Church of Sweden is that the
chocolate companies must try to create an interim monitoring system for production
in the Ivory Coast and in Ghana, before the international monitoring and certification
system comes into effect on 1 July 2008.

A complete list of SwedWatch’s and Church of Sweden’s recommendations is
presented later in the report.

                                    SwedWatch   ●   The dark secret of chocolate    11
Part 1: The dark secret of chocolate
Chocolate is one of the joys of life. There are many myths about the properties of the
cocoa bean and, through the centuries, it has been used both as medicine and as an
aphrodisiac. Carl von Linné devoted his life to giving Latin and Greek names to flora
and fauna, and called the cocoa tree Theobroma, the food of the gods. Today there are
metres of shelves with various chocolate products in every convenience store. Well-
known brand products have been with us since the early 20th century and awaken
positive associations. Sweden and Norway are major consumers of chocolate –
Norway is in fifth place, and Sweden in eighth, in terms of chocolate consumption per
person and year.1

But the colourful wrappers and clever advertising films conceal a different reality. A
reality that includes both human trafficking and working conditions similar to slavery.

In September 2000, the British TV company, Channel 4 Television, showed a
documentary of how young boys from Mali were used as slaves on cocoa farms in the
Ivory Coast. Many international organisations conducted follow-up studies, and
reported that the working conditions in cocoa production in West Africa were both
unacceptable and unregulated. The research institute, the International Institute of
Tropical Agriculture, estimates that over 600,000 children and young people work on
cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast.2 An estimated one-third of these children work under
hazardous and health-jeopardising conditions.

The institute reported that children participate in the work on West African cocoa farms.
They keep the fields free from brushwood and other undergrowth using machete knives,
they use pesticides, and they harvest and process the cocoa. The work is tough and
injuries are common, and children working on the cocoa farms are exposed to risks
such as muscular and skeletal injuries caused by the monotonous work and heavy
lifting. Working with machetes results in both minor injuries and actual amputations of
body parts, as a result of accidents. Furthermore, the work with pesticides causes a
variety of injuries because of poor quality safety equipment when handling pesticides.3

American reaction to the reports was strong. A Congressman, the Democrat Eliot
Engel, introduced a bill in the U.S. Congress to change the law. The proposal included
a labelling and monitoring system that guaranteed that labelled chocolate products
were not produced using forced labour and the worst forms of child labour. The House
of Representatives approved the bill. In the Senate, Senator Tom Harkin supported the

To avoid the risk of a consumer boycott and a legislative amendment that would result
in the chocolate industry violating the law, its representatives gave notice that
measures would be taken to solve the problems associated with child labour. A joint
action plan was produced by the chocolate industry, the governments of the United
States and the Ivory Coast, human rights organisations, and international trade unions.
The action plan was called The Harkin-Engel Protocol, and was formalised in the
autumn of 2001.

12      SwedWatch   ●   The dark secret of chocolate
In this report, SwedWatch and The Church of Sweden intend to review the current
situation in the Ivory Coast and Ghana, two of the biggest cocoa producing countries.
At the same time, we want to know what the chocolate companies in Sweden are
doing about the issues relating to the working conditions on the cocoa farms in the
Ivory Coast and Ghana. The chocolate producers active in Sweden that were reviewed
in this report are Cloetta/Fazer, Marabou/Kraft and Nestlé.

Cocoa cultivation
After cereals, sugar and coffee, cocoa is the biggest agricultural raw material on
the global market.4 Production, sales and processing of cocoa have developed
into a global industry. In 2003-04 world production of cocoa was 3.1 million
The world market for chocolate products was worth just over SEK 550 billion in 2001,
an increase of around one-fifth since 1996. Europe is the biggest individual market,
accounting for 42 percent of all imports. 6

Cocoa is grown in a belt around the Equator. West Africa (the Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Ghana and
Cameroon) is the biggest producer, with an output of 2.1 million tons. Asia is second with 435,000
tons and then Central and South America with 258,000 tons. The biggest single cocoa-producing
country is the Ivory Coast, with Ghana and Indonesia in second and third places. In 2002, West
Africa accounted for nearly 70 percent of the world production. Several countries in South and
Central America, such as Brazil, Ecuador and Venezuela, also produce small amounts of cocoa. 7
An estimated 3.5 million people in the Ivory Coast are employed in the production of cocoa. The
corresponding figure for Ghana is 3.2 million.8

Amsterdam in the Netherlands is the port that handles the biggest proportion of cocoa
in the world, approximately a fifth of the world production, corresponding to 600,000
tons annually.9 Most of the cocoa processing takes place in Western Europe, just over
35 percent. Grinding and other processes are mainly carried out in Germany and the

Trends in the price of cocoa — a bad deal for the farmer
The price of cocoa plays a crucial role in the export income of the West African
countries. The Ivory Coast’s economy is entirely dependent on the world price of
cocoa. The strong dependence on income from cocoa, together with fluctuations in
the price of the raw material, causes economic fluctuations and has social
consequences. The downward price trend for cocoa has resulted in many West
African countries having trade deficits.

As with other trading goods, the price of cocoa depends on supply and demand.
The price of cocoa is fixed on the commodity exchanges in London and New York.

                                   SwedWatch   ●   The dark secret of chocolate   13
The cocoa tree
     The cocoa tree can grow to up to 15 metres in height, and has large, shiny, dark green
     leaves. The cocoa fruits grow directly on the trunk and on the thick branches. They are
     approximately 20 cm long and resemble large walnuts or melons. During the ripening
     process, the colour changes from yellow to orange to red, and finally they become
     reddish-brown. Each fruit contains 20-50 almond-like cocoa beans, surrounded by sticky
     white pulp. It takes 3-5 years before a cocoa tree provides fruit, and then the tree
     provides fruit for approximately 25 years.

     Botanically, the commercially cultivated cocoa tree comprises three main species:
     Criollo: Dominated the market up until the mid-19th century, but today there are
     only a few examples left of the species.
     Forastero: The biggest species. Cultivated and wild plants are found in large areas of
     Brazil, West Africa, Ecuador and Mexico.
     Trinitario: This is often counted as Forastero but in reality it is a cross between Criollo
     and Forastero. The cultivation began in Trinidad but has since spread to Venezuela,
     Ecuador, Cameroon, Samoa, Sri Lanka, Java and Papua New Guinea.

     The cocoa harvest
     The cocoa is harvested regularly, because the seed pods ripen at different times. The
     fruit is harvested all year round, but the harvest is most intensive in December and
     June. Machines cannot be used because the fruits on the same tree ripen at different
     times, and the flowers beside the ripe fruits must not be harmed. Ripened seed pods
     containing cocoa beans are cut down by hand, using long machete knives. After seven
     to ten days, the seed pods are opened, and the wet cocoa beans are removed for
     drying before being packed into sacks for export to mainly Europe and the United
     States. The cocoa beans then undergo various refinement processes and are made into
     cocoa butter, cocoa powder, and cocoa mass.71

     The history of cocoa
     The cocoa tree originates from the rain forest area around the Orinoco and Amazon
     rivers in South America. It was in the Maya kingdom that the farmers started to
     cultivate cocoa for the first time. The Maya Indians lived in an area that
     corresponds to present-day Mexico, Guatemala, Bolivia and Honduras. The oldest
     remains from this culture can be traced back to 1500 BC. The Maya believed that
     cocoa had healing properties, and used it as medicine. Cocoa beans were also used
     in connection with different ceremonies. Cocoa beans were coveted, durable and
     easy to transport, and were therefore often used as a means of payment. When the
     Maya traders went out on their travels, the cocoa beans were an important part of
     the cargo. In this way, the news of cocoa was spread.

     After conquering Mexico at the start of the 16th century, it was the Spaniards who took
     cocoa beans to Europe. Cocoa became a fashionable drink in Europe’s finest circles.
     The drink also had a reputation as an aphrodisiac, enriching both the soul and the love
     life. The increasing demand for cocoa in Europe resulted in the colonising countries
     spreading the cultivation of cocoa also to Asia and Africa.70

14        SwedWatch    ●   The dark secret of chocolate
From cocoa bean to chocolate

   Each fruit contains 25-30 beans that must ferment for five to six days. After
   fermentation, the beans must be dried for one to two weeks, after which they are
   packaged and transported to the buyers.

   The other processing takes place at the chocolate manufacturers. First, the beans are
   roasted, and this is very important for the taste of the chocolate. Before the beans
   are crushed, the shell and sprouts are removed by suction. When the beans are
   crushed, they are ground to a mass and, from this, at least half of the fat is pressed
   out in order to make cocoa powder. The fat that is removed is made into cocoa butter.
   The cocoa mass, sugar and cocoa butter is then mixed, and rolled into chocolate. The
   chocolate is then converted to a fluid consistency. Various flavourings are added,
   such as vanilla or cinnamon.

Cocoa production increased drastically towards the end of the 1980s, when more export countries
broke into the market, attracted by the relatively favourable world market price. The current world
production of cocoa is nearly double what it was in the 1980s.11 The result was a major drop in the
price of cocoa beans, which is now only a quarter of what it was 20 years ago.13

The proportion of agricultural products in the EU’s total trade of goods with other
countries has fallen from nine percent in 1995 to six percent in 2003. Imports consist
mainly of tropical products such as cocoa, coffee, tea and spices.15 The decreasing
world market price has hit the small-scale farmers hard, and they fall into a vicious
cycle where they have less chance to invest in their farms and to cope with
unforeseen costs. An example is that the farmers have less money available to
combat the attack of disease on their crops, which in turn increases the risk of lower
yields. 16

Work on the cocoa farms
In West Africa, cocoa is the crop of the small-scale farmer, and the work is almost
entirely manually, without the use of machines. The International Cocoa Organisation
estimates that small-scale farmers with less than five hectares of cultivable land
produce nearly 90 percent of all cocoa. The yield for small-scale farmers in Ghana is
300 kg per hectare, and in the Ivory Coast 450 kg. Many of the farmers that grow cocoa
do not own the land themselves, and the cost of renting the land is between 50 and 66
percent of the income derived from the cocoa harvest.17

Cocoa farmers can be divided into three main groups:18

      Farmers that cultivate their own land.
      Most of the farmers that own and farm their own land grow cocoa as one of their crops. This
      is the most common form in the older production areas.

                                      SwedWatch   ●   The dark secret of chocolate      15
Farmers that grow crops on another person’s land in return for a share of the
      yield. (Sharecroppers)
      This category shares the yield with the landowner, usually in the ratio of
      one-to-two or, less commonly, one-to-one. The system has existed for a
      long time, but is most common in areas in the Ivory Coast that have been
      brought into cultivation more recently. Many of these sharecroppers are
      immigrants from Mali and Burkino Faso. These farmers receive a lower
      share of the yield than farmers that own their own land, so a paid
      workforce is unusual.

      Farmers that manage a farm.
      The managers are responsible for growing the crop, and are compensated
      either through a fee, salary or promise of a future share in the farm. This is
      most common on farms that are under development, i.e. before the start of
      commercial production. It is also common that small-scale farmers, in
      addition to running their own farms, are commissioned as managers by
      larger-scale farmers. The same problem of a paid labour force applies as
      for sharecroppers.

Immigrants have played an important role in building up the cocoa industry in both
the Ivory Coast and Ghana. It is estimated that half the farmers in the Ivory Coast and
30 percent in Ghana originally came from the neighbouring countries, mainly Burkina
Faso and Mali. The immigrants have mainly been involved in clearing the new
farmland areas, as they are more mobile than the local farmers.19

The labour force used on the farms can be divided into:
• The farmer
• The farmer’s immediate family
• The farmer’s relatives
• Labour paid by the day
• Labour in long-term employment
• Illegal labour (forced labour, slaves, child workers)20

Child labour and child trafficking in West Africa
The use of child labour in the West African (Cameroon, the Ivory Coast, Ghana and
Nigeria) cocoa industry has attracted increasing attention in recent years.

The Ivory Coast criminalized the employment of children under 14 in 1995, but the
law is only applied in the formal sector and not for work on family farms for
example.21 Ghana’s legislation prohibits children under 13 from working. Children
under 15 may only carry out “light work”, i.e. work that does not affect the child’s
health, education or possibility for development.22

16      SwedWatch   ●   The dark secret of chocolate
It is difficult to get precise information about the scale of the use of child labour. The
difficulties include the impossibility of making a random selection of farmers, as
these are not registered with any authority. Furthermore, the use of child labour is a
sensitive issue that is not made public, and the exploited children do not dare to
come forward. Consequently, the information about the number of children working
on cocoa farms varies according to the source and the method used.

Health risks for children working on cocoa farms, according to ILO: 23
• Muscular and skeletal injuries due to monotony, movements
  and heavy lifting;
• Heatstroke;
• Minor injuries and total amputations of body parts caused by work with
• Poisoning from different pesticides;
• Long working days;
• Snake and insect bites.

Poverty creates child labour
The small-scale cocoa farmers are completely dependent on income from cocoa for
their self-sufficiency. It is a crop that requires a stable climate, and it is also sensitive
to attack from diseases and insects. The fluctuating price on the world market, and the
leasing fee that the farmer often pays for the land he uses, makes the activity
financially vulnerable.

Cocoa production is labour intensive, and mechanised aids are rare. One way for the
cocoa farmers to keep costs down is to minimise labour costs. Often, the whole family
works on the farm, including children. The demand for cheap labour is often greater
than the local supply. This forms a breeding ground for the recruitment of people from
other areas, and who are then exploited. A study by the UN body for labour rights, ILO,
indicates that up to one-third of the cocoa farms use workers that are not members of
the family.24

A uniform picture of the nature of the migrant workers’ situation is not possible.
Some are paid for their work, while others get into a situation where they are
harassed and forced to remain against their will. Others are badly exploited, but can
at least leave the farm whenever they want to.

Many of the cocoa farmers in the Ivory Coast came originally from Burkina Faso.
One of these farmers describes the recruitment procedure when he collects
workers from his old home village in Burkina Faso:

      “When I need workers, I return to my village in Burkina Faso and tell
      my relatives that I need people for my cocoa farm. If they still have
      children in the village they send them with me.

                                       SwedWatch   ●   The dark secret of chocolate      17
                                                           Cocoa consumption
                               8.4    8.3    8.2     8.2
                                                             7.0     6.8

     6                                                                      5.3



         Switzerl     Irelan         Norw          Germany         Belgiu         Finland          Holland
         and          d              ay                            m
              Austria    UK                 Denmark        Swede            USA           France

Cocoa consumption in kg per capita and country.
Source: 2002 International Statistics of Cabisco/ICCO.

         I make an agreement with the father about a price for each child and how
         many years they will work. Their father sends them to the farm and if they are
         too young to find the way, my brother goes to fetch them. I pay around CFA
         100,000 (approximately SEK 1,300) for an older child, and approximately
         CFA 70,000 (approximately SEK 950) for a young child.” 25

The future for these children is uncertain. Probably they remain in tough farmwork
for many years. Most of them are not registered in the school system, so they have no
chance of formal education either. They are at the mercy of the farmer in terms of
punishment and physical assault and the conditions they are to work under. Some of
the children return to their home villages after the agreed time with some money
earned, while others are not paid the amount agreed with the farmer and are forced to
remain on the farms much longer than was planned. It is primarily the parents’
poverty that causes their dependence on their children contributing to the household’s
income by working on a cocoa farm.

18         SwedWatch   ●   The dark secret of chocolate
Cocoa production by
    country                                                           Ecuador 3%

                                                                      Cameroon 5%
          170                                                         Nigeria 5%
                                                                      Brazil 6%
                                 1240                                 Rest of the world 10%

                                                                      Indonesia 15%
          450                                                         3%
                                                                      Ghana 16%
                                                                      The Ivory Coast 40%

Cocoa production by country, in thousands of tons. Source: 2004 LMC International, ICCO.

                                        Production in developing countries

         Cocoa beans                Cocoa mass    Cocoa powder             Chocolate

Production in developing countries, as a percentage of total world production.

SwedWatch’s conclusions about the workers’ conditions on the cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast and
Ghana are based on a number of sources. SwedWatch commissioned Kemby Consultants, under
the management of Dr Yao Bah Noel, to conduct a study in the district of Abengourou in the Ivory
Coast, which is an important area for cocoa farming. Lennart Rahm translated this study to
Swedish. Because of the tense situation in the Ivory Coast, we also held twelve in-depth interviews
with cocoa workers in Burkina Faso, on the border to the Ivory Coast. In addition, we held four in-
depth interviews with cocoa farmers. The interviews of two of these workers and two of the
farmers are presented in the section about the Ivory Coast. Denis Batienon, a research assistant,

                                          SwedWatch   ●   The dark secret of chocolate        19
carried out the interviews. It is important to emphasise that these interviews do not
reflect a representative sample of people, and were only conducted on a random basis.

Sigrun Helmfrid, a social anthropologist conducting research focusing on Burkina
Faso, was invaluable in the work of collecting and evaluating data concerning
migrant workers from Burkina Faso.

SwedWatch’s own survey complements the very detailed report on the scale and
conditions of child labour on the cocoa farms of the Ivory Coast that was carried by the
African National Research Institutes/ International Institute for Tropical
Agriculture/ILO in collaboration with other parties, including the chocolate industry.
This report covers all the 20 cocoa producing regions in the Ivory Coast, and the
investigators visited 250 villages throughout the country.

SwedWatch’s field study in Ghana was carried out by the Institute of African Studies
at the University of Ghana, under the management of Dr Osman A-R Al Hassan. The
survey was carried out in the Sefwi-Wiawso district in western Ghana. Sefi-Wiawso
is an agricultural area, and one of the leading cocoa producing areas in Ghana. The
district is also the first area that migrant workers reach when they come from the
poorer northern Ghana looking for ways of supporting themselves. Sefi-Wiawso is
included in WACAP/IPEC’s pilot project about child labour. SwedWatch chose three
settlements at random, Fawokabra, Kramokrom and Bonwire, and interviews were
held with owners of cocoa farms, workers, cocoa buyers and representatives of local

These SwedWatch studies are supplemented with reports produced by the World Bank,
the aid organisation Terre de Homme, UNICEF, the African National Research
Institutes/ International Institute for Tropical Agriculture/ILO and individual

20      SwedWatch   ●   The dark secret of chocolate
The cocoa fruits are harvested with machetes, and workers on the farms often injure themselves on the
sharp blades. Photo: Anders Gunnartz.

                                      SwedWatch   ●   The dark secret of chocolate     21
Part 2: Environmental problems
In West Africa, cocoa cultivation has been associated with the clearance of tropical
forest. A cocoa farmer clears tropical forest in order to start a new cocoa farm. The
annual yield increases gradually until the tree is approximately 18 years old. Yield
then drops off because of exhaustion of soil nutrients, erosion and increased attacks by
harmful insects and diseases. Between 20 and 30 years after planting, the farmer must
make a decision – he must either invest in replanting, which means first removing the
old cocoa trees, improving the soil, and reducing the attacks of diseases and insects, or
clear a new area of tropical forest. In less densely populated areas, clearing forest is
usually easier. The replanting option is usually too expensive for the small-scale
farmers. In the last ten years, the amount of forest in the Ivory Coast has been

The cocoa tree is sensitive to attack from insects and fungi, so chemical pesticides and
fungicides are widely used. The most commonly used agents are Propoxur (Unden
200EC) and Lindan (Gamma BHC). Both these preparations are banned in Sweden.
Consumption of Propoxur causes acute poisoning, and can be directly fatal. Lindan is
toxic, not only when consumed, but also on skin contact and when the fumes are
inhaled. Both preparations are very harmful to aqueous organisms, and can affect the
water environment for a long time.27

22      SwedWatch   ●   The dark secret of chocolate
Part 3: The tough conditions in the Ivory

The Ivory Coast — a country in conflict
The Ivory Coast is a country in crisis, but when the country gained its independence
from France in 1960, the future looked bright. It was the most flourishing country in
West Africa, with rapidly growing production of coffee, cocoa, pineapples and palm
oil. Since1979 the Ivory Coast has been the world’s leading exporter of cocoa.

At the start of the 1980s, the falling price of cocoa, the general economic downturn in
the world, and severe drought, caused an economic crisis, and criminality in the country
shot through the roof.

The downturn also increased the ethnic tensions in the country. In the northern part of
the country, a large proportion of the population stems from the neighbouring country
of Burkina Faso. For many years, the cocoa industry in the Ivory Coast attracted guest
workers from neighbouring countries, mainly from Burkina Faso.

President Henri Konan Bedié used the ethnic tension to maintain power. In the 1990s,
he succeeded in preventing his main political opponent, Alassane Ouattara, from
contesting the presidency. The reason was that one of his parents came from Burkina
Faso. Bedié also increased ethnic tensions in the army. This led to a military coup in
1999 and Bedié was forced to flee to France.

In the next presidential election in 2000, the Supreme Court declared Ouattara’s
candidature invalid, which led to violent protests from the population in the northern
part of the country. The Ivory Coast increasingly took the character of a conflict
between the people regarded as “genuine” citizens of the Ivory Coast and those
regarded as immigrants from Burkina Faso, even though they might have lived in
the Ivory Coast for several generations. The conflict was further exacerbated by
religious tension, because the population in the north originating from Burkina Faso
largely comprises Muslims, while the rest of the population is mainly Christian and

In practice, the Ivory Coast is currently divided into two parts after an unsuccessful coup against
President Laurent Gbagbo in September 2002. Rebels largely control the northern part of the
country, while the southern parts are in the hands of the government forces. The area between is a
zone guarded by the French army and UN forces. Violence broke out again at the start of
November 2004, when the former colonial power, France, almost completely destroyed the Ivory
Coast’s air force, in revenge for the deaths of nine French soldiers in a bomb attack against a rebel-
controlled city. The country is currently in a very tense situation, and new conflicts risk breaking
out at any time.

                                     SwedWatch   ●   The dark secret of chocolate    23
The civil population has been badly affected by the chaotic situation in the country.
More than a million people are estimated to be on the run in the Ivory Coast. Half of
the 800,000 inhabitants of the city of Bouaké are estimated to have left the city.28
According to the UN organisation, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF),
approximately 15 percent of the children are undernourished in the rebel-controlled
northern part of the country and in the government-controlled western part of the
country. 29

There are many reports of massacres and other assaults on civilians. Both government
troops and rebels have set up roadblocks where they harass the civil population and
demand bribes to avoid assault. There are also reports that both sides conduct arbitrary
executions of people suspected of collusion with the opposition.30

The living conditions in the country differ considerably between poor and rich, and
access to food, housing and work is highly varied. This is partly due to widespread
corruption in the country, where some people are able to accumulate significant

Many children are forced to leave the school system already at the age of 12-14 because
of lack of money. In large areas of the Ivory Coast, the educational system has broken
down since the start of the conflict. Information indicates that less than 50 percent of
children and young people between 6 and 18 years attend school, and that
approximately half of the population in the country is literate. 31

The farmworkers tell SwedWatch that their biggest problem is the low wages. Photo: Anders

24      SwedWatch   ●   The dark secret of chocolate
Cocoa — a crop used in the conflict
At a time when foreign aid has been radically cut because of the conflict in the country, the profits
from cocoa production help to finance both the government-supporting forces in the south and the
cocoa-smuggling rebel forces in the north. Cocoa accounts for 43 percent of the Ivory Coast’s
gross national product. In an interview with the Reuters news agency, the rebels’ political leader
Guillaume Soro says that the cocoa produced in rebel-controlled areas is smuggled to the
neighbouring countries of Guinea, Togo and Ghana to prevent the Ivory Coast’s government
imposing a tax on the cocoa, thereby raising more funds for the army.32

The Ivory Coast’s trading structure
The Ivory Coast has approximately a million small family farms, each producing about
a ton of cocoa beans.33 The coffee and cocoa trade of the Ivory Coast is governed by
Bourse du Caffé et du Cacao (BCC) and the Coffee and Cocoa Regulatory Authority
(ARCC). Two-thirds of the BCC board consists of farmers, exporters and
representatives of the processing industry. The board’s quarterly task is to fix a
minimum price that is paid to the farmers for cocoa.34 ARCC is an independent public
body, with monitoring and international representation as its tasks. In an attempt to
prevent major exporters gaining a monopoly, the state has imposed a ceiling on the
amount of cocoa that an individual exporter can purchase per quarter.

Foreign multinational exporters have increased their grip on the cocoa exports from the
Ivory Coast, while domestic export companies have lost influence. This has affected the
country’s economy. When the Ivory Coast’s government tried to increase its income
from the cocoa trade by raising custom duties in 2001, the large exporters responded by
stopping exports until the new custom duties were reduced.35

Ten large companies, led by the US companies Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland (ADM),
control exports. In the 2001/2002 season, the Cargill Group was the biggest buyer of cocoa, with
13 percent of the total harvest. Next biggest was ADM with 10 percent of the total cocoa harvest,
followed by the French Bollore group with 8 percent. The biggest of the local exporters was
Coopyca, which was in nineteenth place with purchases corresponding to 12,631 tons, or less than
one percent of the harvest. 36

Travelling buyers visit the farms to collect the cocoa. These either work directly for, or
are contracted to, one of the major exporters. The farmers are paid cash. BCC sets a
guaranteed minimum price for export, but the price may be higher depending on
demand. The cocoa is usually transported to purchasing centres in large cities, where it
is then sold to buyers. The cocoa is then transported to any of the harbours in the cities
of Abidjan or San Pedro. The system means that exporters are compensated any losses
if the price of cocoa falls, and must pay a refund if the price rises.

A state-monitored fund was set up in 2002/2003 with the aim of stabilising prices
quarterly. Every quarter BCC sets a guaranteed minimum price for cocoa bought at
farms. A fixed price is also set for collection from the farms and transport to the
harbours in Abidjan and San Pedro.

                                     SwedWatch   ●   The dark secret of chocolate     25
The Ivory Coast

Human rights and labour rights in the Ivory Coast
The crisis after the coup attempt has affected human rights in the country. Reports in
recent years have indicated that hundreds of people have disappeared for shorter or
longer periods, arbitrary executions and arbitrary deprivation of liberty occur, as well
as forced conscription. Many mass graves have been discovered. In the southern part of
the country, harassment of foreigners and people from the north is common. Torture,
corporal punishment and other inhumane treatment are forbidden according to the
constitution. However, there are reports of the use of severe violence and assault being
used against people that have disappeared or imprisoned in order to exact confessions.

The country’s constitution from 2000 includes a detailed list of civil liberties. As
described below, there is little respect for many of these civil liberties.37

26      SwedWatch   ●   The dark secret of chocolate
   Type of government: Republic
   Area: 322,460 km2
   Capital: Yamoussoukro (200,000 inhabitants in 1998)
   Highest mountain: Nimba (1,752 m)
   Major rivers: Bandama, Komoé, Cavally, Sassandra
   Population: 16.7 million (estimated, 2002)
   Inhabitants/km2: 55
   Average life expectancy: men 50, women 52
   Literacy: men 60 %, women 38 %
   Ethnic groups: Baulé, Bété, Senufo, Malinké, Dioula, Agni, etc.
   Languages: French is the official language, around 60 domestic languages
   are also spoken
   Religion: Traditional religions approx. 35%, Islam approx. 40 %, Christianity
   approx. 25 %
   GNP/inhabitant: USD 698 (2002)
   Proportion of GNP for different sectors: Agriculture 26 %, industry 26 %, service and
   miscellaneous 48 % (1999)
   Natural resources: timber, oil, gas and diamonds
   Major exports: cocoa, timber, coffee, preserved fish, cotton
   Membership of international and regional organisations: African Development Bank,
   the West African cooperation organisation ECOWAS, UN, IMF, OAU, World Bank

   Information taken from Länder i fickformat, Swedish Institute of International Affairs, 2004

Labour rights
In principle, discrimination in working life because of gender, skin colour, religion,
political views, nationality, or similar has not previously occurred, but the ongoing
crisis has changed the situation. For several years the authorities have tended to
recommend that employers recruit citizens of the Ivory Coast rather than people from
other countries.

The authorities decide on minimum wages that vary according to sector and the type
of employment. The most recent review was in 1996. The lowest minimum monthly
salary was then set at CFA 36,000 (approximately SEK 500) for an industrial worker,
which is not sufficient to support the employee and his family. Employees have a
statutory working time of 40 hours per week, they are to be paid overtime, and have
at least one rest period of 24 hours per week. In the informal sector, where most
people work, the conditions are often worse.

Forced labour is forbidden according to Ivory Coast law. According to the constitution,
all citizens apart from the police and military are entitled to join employee
organisations and have the right to collective bargaining. Only a small proportion of
the country’s employees are organised, because most people work in the informal
sector. Many bigger employers in the public and private sectors are bound by
collective agreements. The right to strike is guaranteed in the constitution, but certain
formal requirements, such as negotiations and notice, must first be fulfilled. The
country’s trade unions use the right to strike quite often, and the authorities usually
respect this.

                                           SwedWatch    ●   The dark secret of chocolate          27
Child labour on the farms in the Ivory Coast
In the wake of the conflict, humanitarian organisations have reported on how children
are used as soldiers and workers. Homeless children are common in the towns and cities.
These children often support themselves by working. Even though the minimum age for
working is 14 years, child labour is common. A large proportion of the children that
work on the cocoa and coffee farms come from other neighbouring countries, and have
been attracted to the Ivory Coast by the promise of high wages and good working
conditions. However, for many, this has meant work under very harsh conditions.
Cooperation has started with certain neighbouring countries to suppress child
trafficking. One of these countries is Mali, from where agents organise child trafficking
in return for payment.

Small family farms account for most of the cocoa production in the Ivory Coast. These
farms are run both by nuclear families with a few family members and by extended
families, which can comprise 10-90 people.38 The labour force on most of the small
farms consists of unpaid family members. However, workers are given food,
accommodation and support if they become ill. The number of cocoa farms in the
Ivory Coast is estimated to be between 600,000 and one míllion.39 The majority of
these farms are very small, averaging between one and three hectares.

During the harvest period, several million people work on the farms. Children and
young people comprise part of the labour force. In recent years, there have been many
alarming reports about child labour on the cocoa farms, but this does not mean that
everyone suffers. It is natural for children and young people that have grown up on
farms to help their relatives, in the same way as they did in the Swedish countryside in
the past.

Unfortunately, large-scale exploitation of children and young people does occur on
many farms. It is easier to force the wages of children down and to control them as
workers, than it is for adults. In the Ivory Coast the salary for an average fully-grown
cocoa worker is approximately SEK 1,200 to SEK 1,500 per year, while a child under
18 only earns just over SEK 700.

The Ivory Coast is especially vulnerable. Over 600,000 children and young people
under 18 years of age work on cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast.40. Of these, an
estimated 12,000 children lack family ties with the farmers. When the Institute of
Tropical Agriculture in 2002 carried out an extensive survey of the scale of child
labour on cocoa plantations in West Africa, and this showed that no less than 200,000
children and young people in the Ivory Coast work with hazardous activities.41 This
shows that family ties with the farmers does not guarantee that children will avoid
injuries while working.

The children and young people that come from the neighbouring countries of Burkina
Faso and Mali run the greatest risks. A study involving the World Bank and other
organisations showed that over 60,000 of the children and young people that work on
the cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast come from Burkina Faso.42 In a study by
SwedWatch in the Abengourou region in the Ivory Coast, over 80 percent of the
workers came from Burkina Faso. The origins of the rest of the workers were divided
equally between the Ivory Coast, Ghana and Togo.

28      SwedWatch   ●   The dark secret of chocolate
You can also read
NEXT SLIDES ... Cancel