by JOE DEMICHELE Staff Writer
Ivory Coast is the home to child slaves whose job it is to harvest cocoa beans for chocolate factories in America such as Hershey Foods, Kraft, and Nestle. Ivory Coast is the world’s trade center for chocolate, providing 43 percent of the world’s supply. Trading chocolate to America accounts for one third of the Ivory Coast’s economy composed of 600,000 cocoa farms with an estimated half a million child workers. However, these children are not workers, they are slaves. Children are told they are going to work on farms to send some of their earnings home to their families. Even parents are tricked into thinking their child is going to do honest work. If children are not tricked into going, they are kidnaped and sold to farmers, never to see their families again. Most children that are taken are aged 12-16, and come from countries such as Mali, Burkina, Faso and Tago. They work 80-100 hours a week with no pay and little food. They are also viciously beaten if they try to escape. “I think it is terrible what they are doing to these helpless children. It is not right and it is inhumane,” says an anonymous source. Farmers claim the children are not slaves and they are not harmed in any way. In reality, slave labor cuts the cost of chocolate and increases profit for farmers and companies. Hershey, one of the largest chocolate companies in America, buys from farms that use child slavery. Hershey is fully aware of child slavery in the Ivory Coast, along with other companies such as Nestle, Kraft, The Chocolate Volt and See’s Chocolate, all for the sake of an unbelievable profit. Hershey says they have no control over what is happening in the Ivory Coast. The company states “They cannot change the way things work there.” While executives enjoy huge profits and American factory workers are able to enjoy a safe work environment, the slaves are prisoners. Child slaves are exposed to harsh chemicals, cannot attend school, and they are forced to use dangerous tools. An anonymous source says, “You can see the toll it is taking on these children just by looking into their eyes; these children have their childhood stolen.” Nothing can ever replace what has been so abruptly taken from them. Child slavery somehow sours the taste of sweet chocolate.