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Winter Holiday’s Slavery

1 January 2010 1 January 2010 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , No Comment Print This Post Print This Post

New York street during Winter Holidays.

Seeing New York City in December must feel like being transported to another world for some Africa-born visitors when visiting it for the first time. And it is not about snow: Africans from parts of Morocco, Tunisia, Lesotho, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia and South Africa might be well familiar with it. It can be more about intense commercial push supported by intense audio-visual winter holiday hoopla present all around. To some New Yorkers, especially those affected by recent global financial downturn, it may feel depressing to live daily in this commercial carnival. After all, winter holidays, besides some social side-effects, do not change peoples’ lives; on the contrary, they can make many lives more difficult by traditionally adding to the already obscene credit card debt.

Unrelated to my goodwill to contribute to the warmth of winter holidays I decided tonight to watch a documentary titled “Slavery: A Global Investigation” that presents the problem of child slave labor and a common greed that stimulates it. Then, I quickly realized that the winter holidays and the torturing of children have much more in common than I could even imagine. Let me explain.

In accordance with commerce statistics every winter holidays’ season triggers a sure increase of production of goods and their sales. One of the commodities that experience the winter holiday sale boom is cocoa – its production and sales double during that period of time. In accordance with the documentary, unsurprisingly, the price of cocoa directly affects the volume of the related slave labor. That got me interested in finding out how much exactly of relative suffering we are talking about here.


The above chart shows that the cocoa price near quadrupled in last 10 years and increased over 30% in 2008 alone; for this reason, it gets attention of child slave holders apparently interested in maximizing their profits. Occasional price drops also increase the volume of child slavery. But, you may ask, what all that have to do with Africa? Quite a lot: Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon alone supply 2/3 of world’s cocoa; therefore, the most child slaves, working specifically with cocoa beans, live in Africa. Most of the cocoa is consumed in the West: 42.7% in Europe, 23.7% in the Americas, and only 14.3% of it in Africa (2007 data).

It’s safe then to state that during the winter holidays, while we are trying to promote love for children, we are also promoting their suffering.

I seem to clearly hear the words of one of the slave laborers who spoke in the documentary. He confessed that, in spite of working with cocoa beans for years, he never tasted chocolate. When asked what message he has for people in the West who love to consume chocolate, he simply said “They are eating my flash”. He is tragically right.

I am sure that I will not be able to have any chocolate during this winter holidays because of how much suffering, I just saw, the cocoa relates to. But, more so, I wonder how we all can make sure that we do not aid exploitation and torture of children. One of the ways would be to use a local, independent inspection and certification of suppliers. But such a network carries a substantial logistical and operational cost. Are we all ready to pay for it or it should be entirely handled by large food conglomerates profiteering from cocoa? Visit Cocoa Campaign page to find out more.

An estimated 44.6 million child laborers in Asia, 23.6 million in Africa, 5.1 million in Latin America, and on other continents, are waiting for their holidays. Click this map link to see global child labor saturation. In a mean time, have happy winter holidays, if that is even possible in a wider context of things.

Written by Mark Bajkowski.
Mark, born in Poland, is a Jack of all trades, master of none, who lives in New York since 1979. Mark has an unusually wide range of interests and is known to relate well to the people half of his age. Since his early childhood, he felt a curious relation to Africa, which unavoidably brings up the controversial subject of multiple life experiences.

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