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by April 2, 2011
The cacao plantations of West Africa are supported by abusive child labor, a problem that stems from the poverty the people and their communities face as part of the cocoa industry.
The average annual household income in cocoa revenue, for one year, is just 30 to 110 dollars -- not even enough for some of the villages to buy water pumps and have their own water supply.
The children who work on these plantations range from about 9 to 14 years old. They're parents are forced to sell them into the industry, hoping they'll find honest work. But life on the plantation is hard: the children rise at 6:00 in the morning, cut the cacao pods down from high branches with machetes, split them open, and then meticulously pick out the cacao beans, sometimes until 6:30 at night. This work is repetitive, back-breaking, and dangerous. The children have no time or money for school, and since many are sold to the plantation at such a young age, their education ends within the first few years of life. They are stuck in this cycle of labor and poverty.
Stand up against child labor and unfair wages. The cacao beans these children harvest garner a 13 billion dollar industry -- they deserve to be freed from labor and their communities deserve a fair return on the work they contribute to cocoa business. Thankfully, more cocoa and chocolate is becoming fair trade, which means farmers can get the stable and sufficient funds they deserve, no child labor will be used, and the farms promote environmental sustainability. When that sweet tooth strikes, choose chocolate that bears the Fair Trade Federation label or says "Fair Trade Certified": you can satisfy your craving and fight for honest, sustainable business.
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