Argumentative essay on the topic
Nowadays, people drink coffee, and coffee beans can be seen at numerous coffee shops. However, if people eat chocolate, they are unlikely to have seen cocoa beans, which have a form of the pinkish almond-like seeds and grow on cacao trees. The native region of the trees is South America but now they grow all over the world only near the equator. Ivory Coast in West Africa is the largest cocoa producer along with Ghana, Indonesia, Brazil, and Nigeria. Intensive labor is required to harvest and produce cocoa beans; however, government and economic forces are gradually driving the price of them further down. Thus, cocoa farmers have fallen back upon to abusive child labor practices to harvest beans to satisfy the humans’ sweet tooth. The problem of child labor and child trafficking are extremely acute in West Africa, especially in Cote d’Ivoire on the Ivory Coast. This paper will explore whether the problem really exists in this area and in neighboring Ghana, which takes the second place in the cocoa industry. I will argue that the child labor in cocoa industry is caused by extreme poverty in this regions and the inability of local and international legislature to cope with this problem globally. Moreover, three policies of the implementation the system of certification, the close research of child labor and how it differs from assistance that has been rooted in culture and, finally, the involvement of celebrities to campaign against this problem will be also covered in my paper. In the first part, the general overview of the film will be presented. In the second part, the international protocols and conventions will be examined, later, the hazards of the children work on cocoa plantations will be explained, then, the use of child labor in Ghana will be described, and, finally, the policies to be done will be introduced.
The documentary “The Dark Side of Chocolate” was created by Miki Mistrati, a Danish journalist who decided to investigate one of the most heartbreaking problems, the problem of child labor and child trafficking in the cocoa industry, especially on the Ivory Coast. This journalist is a very brave man and uses a secret camera to record everything he sees. The film begins in Germany where he asks vendors about the origin of their chocolate and sees that the majority of them do not even know where it comes from and who harvests cocoa beans. The man also asks them about the use of child labor on cocoa farms. Then they leave for Mali and the Ivory Coast to the cocoa plantations. In Mali, Mistrati traces children who have been promised to have a well-paid job; however, instead they are taken to the border by a trafficker who sells them to another trafficker who sells these children to farmers for 250 euros each. Children from the age of ten to fifteen are forced to work like slaves without even being paid for such hazardous labor. Mistrati also says that they stay on plantations till they die and never see families. However, there is of evidence for these facts. The documentary ends in Switzerland where ILO, as well as Nestle headquarters, are situated. The representative of the corporation rejected the invitation to watch the film, thus, the author decided to install a large screen opposite the headquarters and forced them to have a look at the roots of their industry. In general, the film is important because there are people who care and decide to tackle a very important issue like the trafficking of children in the cocoa industry of West Africa.
For better interpretation and contextualization, it is important to differentiate between such notions as child labor, child work, and the worst form of child labor within the socio-economic context because not all work that is done by children can be classified as child labor. The ILO Convention permits the light forms of work for children from the age of twelve for developing countries. According to ILO Convention 182, hazardous child labor is a type of work, which is likely to harm the health, development or safety of children, and some cocoa activities have been described as hazardous due to the use of unsafe tools or absence of protective equipment. (Frempong, Ruivenkamp, Owusu-Amankwah, & Essegbey, 2014). “Cote d’Ivoire is the world’s leading coca producer, typically supplying more than 40% of the cocoa consumed worldwide. In September 2000, a British television documentary reported that hundreds of thousands of children in Burkina Faso, Mali and Togo were being purchased from their parents and sold as slaves to cocoa farmers in neighboring Cote d’Ivoire. The documentary included claims that slavery existed on as many as 90% of Ivorian cocoa farms” (Schrage & Ewing, 2005). There are several Ivorian laws that allow children working only over the age of fourteen and only if they have parental consent. The minimum age work in agriculture is twelve. In practice, they work on family farms or in the informal sectors of the economy. Thus, those children who perform not only light work but also whose work prevents them from schooling are classified as prohibited child laborers under the standards of ILO. Actually, primary education in Cote d’Ivoire is obligatory but usually unenforced, especially in rural areas.
Approximately two hundred million children are involved in hazardous and injurious work all over the world. Child labor is a serious problem worldwide because it affects child’s physical, moral, and psychological development. The international concern for child labor has been expressed in a number of documents, for example, UN Convention on the Rights of the Child 1990; OAU Declaration on the Rights of the African Child, ILO Convention No 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labor 1999, etc. Child labor in the cocoa production of West Africa has become a critical issue since 2000 after trafficked children labor on cocoa farms of Cote d’Ivoire was exposed by media. It has become a threating issue for the Global Chocolate industry because governments and child right advocated began to pressurize to solve this problem or ban cocoa products. In 2001, the Global Chocolate industry adopted Harkin-Engel Protocol, which ensured that cocoa beans were harvested and processed without using the worst form of child labor (Frempong, Ruivenkamp, Owusu-Amankwah, & Essegbey, 2014). After the adoption of various laws and conventions, the cocoa industry gained public attention because these conventions have not been realized in the African sector of agriculture. The International Initiative to End Child Labor conducted a research and found out that children between five and nine years old make up the largest group of working ones, and the main danger to their health are pesticides. Such children’s occupation is a result of economic decline and poverty (Lawrance, 2010). The cocoa industry is the dominant branch of industry and contributes 70% of Ghana’s export. Nearly two-thirds of all children living in regions where cocoa beans are harvested work in cocoa production. Approximately 71% of cocoa farmers make their children work with them (Lawrance, 2010). Moreover, the majority of children engaged in cocoa production work on familiar farms.
Children who work on cocoa farms are exposed to chemical and physical hazards because there is no proper training and protective equipment for them, and such conditions result in long-term adverse problems for health. According to the research of Mull and Kirkhorn (2005), children at the age of ten assist during the process of mixing and loading of pesticides. Adolescents at the age of fourteen serve as pesticide applicators but what is the most dangerous is that they carry pesticide containers on the top of their heads without any personal protective equipment and protective clothing. They do not wear masks or observe proper entry intervals that may result in organochlorine poisoning. “Hazardous tools included long and short cutlasses and chainsaws. The most hazardous activities that children and young people engaged in were the following: clearing virgin forests and weeds, pruning trees while climbing heights greater than nine feet, harvesting pods using short and long cutlasses, opening pods using short cutlasses” (Mull & Kirkhorn, 2005). Moreover, while working on cocoa farms, children are exposed to minor and major injuries and musculoskeletal disorders. Musculoskeletal disorders result from handling heavy objects and carrying them on their heads, and the consequences are the pain in neck, back, shoulders, and arms. The injuries include strains, sprains of the back, various cuts, fractures of the wrists, and dislocated shoulders. Eye injuries take place when debris falls into the eyes. Heat-related symptoms and dehydration are also negative consequences of harvesting (Mull & Kirkhorn, 2005).
In fact, the use of children in various economic activities has a tendency to prevent them from education, and their health and general development. The program of UNICEF adopted in 2012 stated that ensuring children’s education and attendance of schools is the key to preventing their labor (Frempong, Ruivenkamp, Owusu-Amankwah, & Essegbey, 2014). Amanda Berlan spent fifteen months in Ghana and researched the real conditions of child labor on cocoa farms and their schooling. She found out that schools were not free from child labor because pupils had to weed and clear the school plot. However, according to her survey, the majority of children preferred both working and going to school (Berlan, 2009). “The children’s work on the school farm illustrates that child labor and education are not always mutually exclusive and while there are some risks attached to cocoa farming, the work carried out by my informants on family – owned cocoa farms was both safer and less strenuous than clearing the school plot as they were more likely to be working in shaded areas, less likely to be clearing thorns, and were more closely supervised” (Berlan, 2009). She also insisted that schooling for problematic because it was “under-resourced and overcrowded, and since it had no electricity to provide ventilation and the teachers were always absent, it was not an environment conducive to learning” (Berlan, 2009). Besides these factors, she adds hunger and stomach cramps while sitting in the classroom because on farms they can pick fruit from trees, malaria, exposure to snakes and scorpions, expensive schooling and poverty-related problems. Moreover, children did not consider themselves victims; vice versa they were happy to be helpful, learn how to be diligent and hard-working, and socialize (Berlan, 2009). Thus, children saw farm work as a hard thing to do but were proud of their results. Amanda also concluded that media accounts of abusive child labor on cocoa farms are exaggerated because they are based on an idealized Western idea of childhood. They think that children in Ghana, for example, are robbed of their childhood; however, they work on farms voluntary, freely, and in a family context.
Abusive child labor is absolutely unacceptable; however, in many African countries children assist parents on their farms to earn for living as they live below the poverty line. Initially, numerous American and European cocoa brands denied the responsibility for employing child labor in the cocoa fields and stated that they were unaware of such conditions because it is difficult to trace working practices on all farms. Indeed, no company was able to guarantee that their cocoa beans were not harvested or processed by children; however, the majority of their raw material was produced in the Ivory Coast. Many think that regulation of child labor is a national concern because the solution to the problem lies in the jurisdiction of the country. However, in the majority of countries, the legislation prohibits child labor but it is not enough to eliminate this phenomenon. So, why does the problem still exist? First, the laws of the developing countries do not cover several sectors, in which exploit children, for example, agriculture and wholesale or retail trades. Moreover, family enterprises and businesses often employ children. In addition, factories evade the law by making children not formal workers (Cooper, 1997). ILO states that such traditional methods as sanctions or boycotts are not helpful because they force employers to dismiss children who later become involved in even a more hazardous activity and do not return to school anyway. Thus, while these measures are not helpful, affixing a particular label to products is a guarantee that it was made without using child labor.
In my opinion, to balance between such notions as assistance and abusive child labor, industry groups should create a system of certification that will focus on working hours and conditions of children on cocoa farms. Thus, there is no necessity to eradicate this phenomenon but introduce the system that will put limits on abusive labor (Lawrance, 2010). Harkin-Engel Protocol, for example, called for creating industry standard of certification that implied a transparent and credible process of indicating the cases of the worst forms of child labor and eliminating it from the sector. However, not much work was done (Frempong, Ruivenkamp, Owusu-Amankwah, & Essegbey, 2014). According to the film, “The Dark Side of Chocolate”, some companies that import cocoa beans have no idea who gathers it for them but I think they must check everything and finance the regulatory process. Moreover, they should finance researchers who will monitor the process of certification and then report not only to the bosses but also to Mass Media.
The problem of abusive child labor can be also solved locally if it exists in reality. Are all children working on cocoa farms exposed to hazardous, illicit, or unhealthy conditions? Indeed, can people create a single program that will help to root out abusive child labor? I agree with Amanda Berlan (2009) that in-depth field investigation should be conducted to define whether children feel like oppressed victims or proud of their helpfulness because a long-term qualitative research should be conducted to make judgments about child labor conditions and their own attitude. “The willingness of children to support parents even at the expense of school suggests that child labor is family embedded and that children should not only target for separation from work but should be offered appropriate avenue to nurture their skills through cultural – legally acceptable work frame” (Frempong, Ruivenkamp, Owusu-Amankwah, & Essegbey, 2014). In my opinion, it is a good idea to engage celebrities in promoting anti-child labor activities and enlightening other people about this problem. Actually, it is not possible to improve the working conditions and hours of children without combating poverty because sometimes children are the breadwinners of their families. In fact, nowadays, the international community has many resources to combat this issue; however, they should focus on long-term and meaningful strategies to achieve success in dealing with this problem.
The problem of child labor and child trafficking really exists in West Africa, especially in Cote d’Ivoire on the Ivory Coast as it was shown in the documentary “The Dark Side of Chocolate”. However, in neighboring Ghana, child labor is equated to assistance and children themselves prefer both working and going to school because it is their way of socialization and becoming hard-working and diligent. According to my research, child labor in cocoa industry is caused by extreme poverty in this regions and the inability of the local and international legislature to cope with this problem globally. Cocoa production is a hazardous industry for working children because it can lead to numerous injuries, poisoning, and other damages to the child’s body. Numerous international acts and conventions were adopted but they do not bring results. The system of international certification should be a compulsory action and must be followed by all corporations. Moreover, they should involve celebrities to campaign against child labor in cocoa industry. As many researchers claim, conventions and protocols should be flexible and applicable to particular regions because in Ghana, for example, children work on farms but they are happy to assist their families and earn living.
Berlan, A. (2009). Child labour and cocoa: Whose voices prevail? International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, 29(3/4), 141-151.
Berlan, A. (2013). Social sustainability in agriculture: An anthropological perspective on child labour in cocoa production in Ghana. The Journal of Development Studies,49(8), 1088.
Cooper, J. (1997). Child labour: Legal regimes, market pressures, and the search for meaningful solutions. International Journal, 52(3), 411-430.
Frempong, G., Ruivenkamp, G. T. P., Owusu-Amankwah, R. O. A., & Essegbey, G. (2014). Mobilizing social capital to deal with child labour in cocoa production: The case of community child labour monitoring system in Ghana. International Journal of Development and Sustainability,3(1), 196-220.
Lawrance, B. N. (2010). From child labor “Problem” to human trafficking “Crisis”: Child advocacy and anti-trafficking legislation in Ghana. International Labor and Working-Class History, 78(1), 63-88.
Mull, L. D., & Kirkhorn, S. R. (2005). Child Labor in Ghana Cocoa Production: Focus upon Agricultural Tasks, Ergonomic Exposures, and Associated Injuries and Illnesses. Public Health Reports (1974-),120(6), 649–655.
Schrage, E. J., & Ewing, A. P. (2005). The cocoa industry and child labour. The Journal of Corporate Citizenship, 2005 (18), 99-112.
The Dark Side of Chocolate: Child Trafficking and Illegal Child Labor in the Cocoa Industry [Motion picture]. (2010). Danish Broadcasting Corporation.
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Introduction paragraph is concise with clear topic sentence, thesis statement and indication of the outline and purpose of the paper. Very Poor Needs Work Good (average) Very Good Excellent
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