Do some research into how some foods are grown and harvested, and you’ll find terrible things. We’re not just talking about crops that aren’t environmentally friendly, but also crops that are harvested by slaves, that make entire communities sick, and some that are the product of animal cruelty.
In 2018, a consortium of agencies that included Oxfam and the International Labor Rights Forum released their Cocoa Barometer. It’s a measure of the state of the cocoa industry on an agricultural level, and it’s dismal stuff. Not only did falling cocoa prices mean farmers living in poverty saw their profits drop even lower, but there had been little to no success in stopping the widespread use of child labor. They estimated more than 2 million children were working on cocoa plantations in West Africa alone, and that’s staggering.
Here are some other numbers. According to one report, the living wage in the Ivory Coast is $2.51 per day, but cocoa farmers can expect to make around 78 cents. That’s where the necessity of child labor comes in, and it’s a heartbreaking situation for everyone involved. While some chocolate companies, like Tony’s, have completely eliminated child labor in their productions lines, others, like Nestle, are still working on it. Nestle implemented the Child Labor Monitoring and Remediation System, in which they’re asking farmers to declare the child labor they’re using so the community can help stop it. Is that really enough?
Vanilla is one of the world’s most popular flavors, and the good stuff comes from Madagascar. Real vanilla pods cost a surprising amount of money and sadly, according to the research center Danwatch, the people growing and harvesting the vanilla aren’t actually seeing much of the profits at all.
They see so little of those profits, in fact, that most of the vanilla-growing communities in the Sava region of Madagascar live in terrible poverty, and still rely on child labor to do a lot of the work. The weeks leading up to the harvest are often filled with starvation and uncertainty, with many families forced to take out loans, with astronomical interest, from the “collectors” who ultimately buy their harvests at a fraction of what it’s worth on the global market.
The International Labor Organization estimates there’s about 20,000 children employed in the vanilla trade as of 2016.
Chocolate | 0:14
Vanilla | 1:16
Bananas | 2:04
Italian wine | 3:05
Soy | 4:15
Avocados | 5:23
Almonds | 6:28
Salmon | 7:33
Pineapple | 8:35
Strawberries | 9:45