People have been asking me what our take is on what’s going on in Cote d’Ivoire at the moment. Is the unrest there affecting the trafficking of kids onto the plantations? What is our response?
I want to take some time explaining it, but in a way that is short and simple to understand (hopefully!).
First things first: what *is* going on in Cote d’Ivoire at the moment?
Last November, elections were held for the first time since a cease-fire after a hard fought civil war that ended. The elections were won by a man called Allassane Ouatarra, leader of one the two factions involved in the civil war. However, the previous president, Laurent Gbagbo, from the opposing faction, has refused to step down. Ouatarra is supported by the international community, Gbagbo by the Ivorian army.
Unrest between the two sides has been increasing, it seems civil war is once again imminent and the situation is constantly evolving (click here for today’s latest news update)
Ouatarra called on Western countries to stop buying Ivorian cocoa (their number one export) as cocoa money has been used by Gbagbo to fund his military. Though this ban is mostly in effect, it is primarily hurting the cocoa farmers at the moment, since they’re having a hard time finding buyers for their cocoa. Also, it has increased the smuggling of cocoa into neighboring countries. You’ve heard of blood diamonds, is this the cocoa equivalent?
At present there are hundreds of thousands of tonnes of cocoa in Cote d’Ivoire just sitting there, unable to move. For the cocoa that is already dried and fermented, waiting in the large warehouses of the ports, it’s not a big issue. That cocoa will remain good for a long time. However, there is also a lot of cocoa in transit & still on the farms that is starting to go bad. The timing of this is disastrous, as this harvest was the first good harvest in years for the farmers. Now they have finally got a large, excellent quality harvest, but they can’t sell it.
So that’s one part of the issue: the ban on cocoa is bad for the farmers. It’s also not so good for Gbagbo, who is currently a de facto military dictator, but the question to be asked right now is whether the cure is worse than the disease. Honestly, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. I do know a lot of people are suffering.
However, there is also the issue of human trafficking onto the cocoa plantations & the work that is being done to fight that. As you can imagine, having a country that is divided, with fighting going on, is not really helping the initiatives aimed at reducing the trafficking of children forced to work on the cocoa plantation.
In fact, during the last civil war, the cocoa crops financed a lot of the fighting. Children were trafficked to finance the war. The danger is that this will happen again.
STOP THE TRAFFIK is very concerned about the current situation, and is watching developments closely. We’re working together with this in a group of European trade unions and NGO’s called VOICE, where we’re sharing the latest information & trying to come up with good answers to the situation. At the very least, STOP THE TRAFFIK call on the cocoa companies involved in the cocoa production there to put as much pressure as they can on all parties to stop the fighting, to not be involved in financing the violence, and to push for a peaceful solution at the shortest possible time.
If the global cocoa industry were to take a joint stand, we are sure they could make a significant difference. In the meantime, make sure you as consumers continue to push for more Traffik Free chocolate in your local stores. Eventually, paying a decent price and ensuring proper labour conditions are some of the important long-term solutions in this tasty product
Antonie Fountain: STOP THE TRAFFIK Netherlands