Nothing Sweet About Slavery Part Two

After writing yesterday’s post I emailed my friends at Theo chocolate to ask if they knew of any more recent information on slavery in Ivory Coast, since the State Department report was from 2000. They wrote back to say there have not been significant changes in the industry since the report came out. They also told me they buy their cocoa beans from the only fair trade certified cooperative in Ivory Coast.

The folks at Theo chocolate referred me to this fascinating webclip from Democracy Now, which features a heated discussion over the chocolate industry between journalist and author Christian Parenti and William Guyton, president of the World Cocoa Foundation. The clip shows video of young boys working in the fields and ends with an interview with Joe Whinney, Theo Chocolate’s president and founder.

Note on the clip: The link is for the entire hour-long episode of the show. Once it’s loaded on your computer fast forward to 23 minutes to watch the bit about chocolate.



  1. KarenP said,

    April 30, 2008 at 4:03 pm

    Great video. After watching it, I went on a little web quest for fair trade chocolate options yesterday. I discovered that Guittard (my favorite brand) makes fair trade chocolate chips–at least for now. I started searching to figure out where I could get them, and discovered an online chocolate store called Chocosphere ( While they don’t necessarily specialize in fair trade chocolates, they have quite a few options, including a full line of Theo chocolates, beautiful 1/2 lb. boxes of assorted chocolates for gift giving by Nirvana, and the aforementioned Guittard Akoma Fair Trade chocolate chips. They sell individually or in bulk, so you can get a great price.

    Now, here’s the best part (at least for you and me, Beth). Guess where this incredible business happens to be located? Tualatin, Oregon, just a couple blocks from Haggen. While they don’t have a storefront, they do allow local customers to purchase online and then pick up the order at their business location.

    I specifically checked on the chocolate chips, and they told me that Guittard has stopped making them, so they only have one 25 lb. box and one 2.2 lb. bag left. Sounds like I need an excuse to make chocolate chip cookies!

  2. Pauline said,

    May 6, 2008 at 7:06 am

    Hi, as a journalist who lives in Ivory Coast I’d like to point out that the story about child slavery as it is being propagated by activists is untrue. Ivory Coast’s cocoa farmers are poor, so they have their own children help on the family plot, many of them after school or on weekends. Yes, there have been cases of abuse, but there is no widespread slavery going on — Africans love their children as much as white people do. The Institute for Tropical Agriculture has conducted a survey on this complicated issue. Buying fair trade chocolate is by all accounts a good thing; banning Ivory Coast cocoa is not, for it would endanger the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of very poor farmers and their families.

  3. Beth said,

    May 6, 2008 at 8:48 am

    Hi Pauline, Thank you so much for joining the conversation. It’s good to have an on-the-ground perspective. I believe the survey you are referring to is found in this report:
    In this survey conducted by the Institute for Tropical Agriculture they do report that child slavery is “relatively uncommon” and that trafficking of children from neighboring countries was “less prevalent today than in the past.” Yet the study also found there were 12,000 children in Ivory Coast working on cocoa farms of which they had no familial tie. Virtually all of these children plus another 100,000 children who work on farms owned by their families were found to be involved in applying dangerous pesticides and using machetes to clear brush.

    I’m glad to hear that you are witnessing no widespread slavery. I agree with you that banning Ivory Coast cocoa all together does nothing to help stop the cycle of poverty and unsustainable agriculture. I understand Ivory Coast has several fair trade cooperatives (Theo chocolate, who I recommended in this post, buys from one) and hopefully more will develop as the demand for fair trade chocolate increases.

  4. KarenP said,

    May 9, 2008 at 5:50 pm

    Since I’ll take any excuse to eat chocolate, I decided it was my moral duty to try some Fair Trade chocolate. I checked at Albertson’s the other night and found one Fair Trade bar, though it’s not certified by Transfair.

    The brand is Rapunzel, Pure Swiss Semi-Sweet Chocolate, a 3 oz. bar for $4.59–ouch. Delicious, though!

    The bar states that the ingredients are purchased through their “Hand in Hand” Ecology and Fair TradeTM program. Looking at their websites ( they appear to be legitimate, though it’s hard to say if their program is evaluated by any third party.

    From their website:
    “What are the Criteria for Rapunzel’s Eco- and Fair-Trade? Rapunzel’s Eco-Trade criteria are based not only on our long-established fair trade convictions and ideals, but we are also using guidelines for social justice and fair trade established by IFOAM, the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements. Furthermore, we work by the definitions and requirements developed by the group SA 8000 (Social Accountability) and by the Council on Economic Priorities (CEP).”

  5. anita said,

    March 22, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    I found the Akoma chips at our local natual foods co-op this weekend, so I am pretty sure that Guittard hasn’t stopped making them.

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