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Investigation Reports Horrific Find at Cocoa Farms in Africa

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Behind the chocolate in every Cadbury Crème Egg lurks the shadow of child labor, according to a new report.

Britain’s Channel 4 found in a report this month that children as young as 10 work for up to nine hours a day in the African nation of Ghana to harvest the cocoa pods that are the raw material of the chocolate for the Easter treat, according to The Sun.

“The farmers are paid so little they can’t afford to hire adults to work on the farm, so they have to use their children,” Channel 4 reporter Antony Barnett told The Sun.

“So they take them out of school to work on the farm. But there were also cases where it wasn’t children belonging to the family, but they’d been brought from elsewhere to work on the farm.”

Although Cadbury’s chocolate supposedly is ethically sourced, Barnett said child labor was pervasive during his trip to Ghana.

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“From what we saw, child labor was everywhere,” Barnett told The Sun. “We didn’t have to go looking for children working on farms – we visited four farms in 12 days, during the harvest, and found evidence of child labor on every one.

“The farms are very remote and hard to get to, so we were limited in our scope, but had we visited more farms, I believe we would have seen more. It seemed to be endemic in my view.”

Mondelez International, Cadbury’s parent company, said they “strongly refute” allegations that they profit from child labor. The company, however, said it would investigate the claims.

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Although the law in Ghana says children under 13 can’t work,  Channel 4 said it found children younger than that working in multiple places.

One girl of about 14 said she was sent to a cocoa farm by an aunt who told her she would be looking after children and learning to sew.

“I suffer a lot when I’m farming,” explained the girl, who said she is afraid to say anything to adults.

Barnett said he expected there would be some child labor, but he was stunned at what he witnessed.

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“I expected to see them plucking pods or spraying pesticides, so what I found the most shocking was how involved they were in this really hazardous work,” he said.

“It was the use of the machete and these sharp knives that was really concerning. They are so young, and these machetes are over half their height, at three feet, and you see both boys and girls are hacking through the undergrowth with them.

“It’s back-breaking work, and many of them had been injured, including one girl who badly slashed her foot but couldn’t go to the hospital because there was no money,” he said, noting that a 10-year-old girl suffered a snakebite because she works without shoes.

Mondelez elaborated on its claim that it does not allow child labor.

“We explicitly prohibit child labor in our operations and have been making significant efforts through our Cocoa Life program to improve the protection of children in the communities where we source cocoa. We strongly refute any allegation that Mondelez benefits from child labor, which we have relentlessly taken a stand against,” the company said in a statement.

“The welfare of the children and families featured is our primary concern and we commit to investigating further.”

According to the latest report from the National Opinion Research Center in Chicago via the New York Post, an estimated 1.56 million children are involved in cocoa production in Africa in Ghana and the Ivory Coast, with 95 percent of those children involved in hazardous child labor.

The report discovered that, despite pledges from chocolate companies, including Cadbury, the number of children ages 5 to 17 who are involved in cocoa labor in Ghana actually has increased from 44 percent to 55 percent since 2009.

Ayn Riggs, founder of Slave Free Chocolate, called the report by Channel 4 “horrifying” and said she was dubious of Mondelez’s statement.

“The part which really enrages me is that these chocolate companies promised to clean this up over 20 years ago. They admitted that they knew they were profiting from child labor, and they have shirked their promises not just to these children, but to everybody in the world,” she said.

“If they really wanted to stamp out child labor, there’s an easy first step that they haven’t done yet, which is paying the farmers a lot more for their beans. The money is there. But on the farms, these farmers can’t afford to replace their children with an adult laborer.”

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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