Chocolate's bittersweet economy
Date of publication: February 15, 2008
Source: Fortune on CNNMoney.com
Author: Christian Parenti
Seven years after the industry agreed to abolish child labor, little progress has been made.
By Christian Parenti
Outside the village of Sinikosson in southwestern Ivory Coast, along a trail tracing the edge of a muddy fishpond, Madi Ouedraogo sits on the ground picking up cocoa pods in one hand, hacking them open with a machete in the other and scooping the filmy white beans into plastic buckets. It is the middle of the school day, but Madi, who looks to be about 10, says his family can't afford the fees to send him to the nearest school, five miles away. "I don't like this work," he says. "I would rather do something else. But I have to do this."
Sinikosson, accessible only by rutted jungle tracks, is a long way from the luxurious chocolate shops of New York and Paris. But it is here, on small West African farms like these, that 70 percent of the world's cocoa beans are grown - 40 percent from just one country, Ivory Coast. It's not only the landscape that is tough. Working and living conditions are brutal. Most villages lack electricity, running water, health clinics or schools. And to make ends meet, underage cocoa workers, like Madi and the two boys next to him, spend their days wielding machetes, handling pesticides and carrying heavy loads.