“Political and Cultural Modernization” taught by professors David Sowell and Emil Nagengast, presents the tragic procedures used to produce chocolate in the Ivory Coast. They showed the documentary “The Dark Side of Chocolate” and had a Juniata alumnus from Burkina Faso, Albert Bado, speak about his experience with the Ivory Coast. Professor Sowell spoke in greater detail about this topic:
In class, we learned about the exploitive practices surrounding harvesting cacao in the Ivory Coast. Is cacao production the same in other countries (i.e. Latin America)?
Most of the cacao is from West Africa. Over 65 percent is from Ghana and the Ivory Coast. A relatively small amount comes amount out of Latin America and the conditions are extremely different. The plantations are not as large so the accounts of child labor abuses are not to scale. There is some level (of abuses) but there are no major charges of human trafficking.
How has cacao harvesting affected the Ivory Coast and its neighboring countries?
It’s the main part of their economy. Cacao is, by far, their number one cash earner. The whole cacao industry is what makes the Ivory Coast profitable for the most of the nation. It’s not just the harvesting, but also the processing and moving it around. All of this is the backbone of their economy.
Although the cacao production provides economic opportunities for citizens, it is currently funding the war in the Ivory Coast. How should corporations and individuals influence the situation?
Albert suggested that there is a top down perspective. Which means that we don’t like the abusive labor relations and the power that comes from that. This power is what has disrupted the recent presidential elections. On the one instance, we can say let’s do an international boycott of cacao from the Ivory Coast and also insist upon fair trade. But Albert reminded us of the other perspective. Since this is the main economy of the Ivory Coast and Ghana, if you shut it down what do you do to the people and the workers? It seems to be damned if you do and a damned if you don’t.
I think the focus should be on the international producers. They have the capacity to enforce labor standard. The attention should be focused less on cacao producers in the country and more upon international corporations like Nestle and Hershey.
What steps have corporations taken to fix the exploitive practices in the Ivory Coast?
The way that “The Dark Side of Chocolate” suggested was through public attention and investigations. The International Labor Organization and the World Court have done these investigations. These pressures can improve conditions on the ground. There will also need to be a Plan B economically, to change these practices. If most of the workers are coming from Chad, then Chad needs to have another source of economic opportunity. These children need something in their country to be an economic alternative.
How responsible should corporations be for the origin of their products?
They should be fundamentally responsible. If they are not responsible then they pretend that those products are not important to the corporate wellbeing. When clearly they are the backbone to corporate well-being.
I believe that corporate responsibility would have to go from the CEO all the way down. If there are cases of documented child labor abuses, which they have agreed to not support, then send the CEO to jail. Bring them to the World Court for crimes against humanity. Unless the penalties are concurrent with their profits, then the practices won’t end; a fine to them is nothing.
~ Erin Kreischer ’13, Juniata Online Journalist