An undercover investigation by Channel 4’s Dispatches programme into Cadbury’s supply chain says it has obtained evidence of illegal child labour on a number of farms in Ghana.

The Channel 4 Dispatches investigation, broadcast on Monday 3 April, comes more than two decades after the chocolate industry giant pledged to eliminate illegal child labour.

Filming both openly and using secret cameras, the Dispatches programme makers purport that they were able to get a picture of what was happening on the ground in Ghana – one of the world’s major suppliers of cocoa beans. Cadbury are now battling allegations that children as young as 10 are using machetes to harvest cocoa pods at a Cadbury farm in west Africa Ghana.

Dispatches
Image credit: Dispatches Channel 4

The Dispatches reporter Antony Barnett said he heard from Cocoa Life farmers who work long hours in searing temperatures for under £2 a day and struggle to feed their families. They told him the lack of money they get for the beans mean they have to use child labour on farms as they can’t afford to hire adult workers. Barnett says all the children he spoke to missed school during the harvest – and some never went to school at all.

Even worse, Barnet said he heard from two daughters of one Cocoa Life farmer who had both been badly injured on the farm – one of the girls had sliced her foot open whilst using a long machete and her 10-year-old sister had been bitten by a poisonous snake. The farmer told him he couldn’t afford immediate medical treatment and had to get a loan before he could take them to hospital.

 

Ayn Riggs, the founder of Slave Free Chocolate, has campaigned to end child labour in the chocolate industry for many years. Riggs described the evidence obtained by Dispatches as “horrifying” and called on Cadbury to act.

She said: “The part which really enrages me is these chocolate companies promised to clean this up over

20 years ago. And haven’t they admitted that they knew it was going on? They admitted that they knew they were profiting from child labour, and they have shirked their promises not just to these children, but to everybody in the world.”

Riggs added: “If they really wanted to stamp out child labour, there is an easy first step that they haven’t done yet, which is paying the farmers a lot more for their beans.”

“If they really wanted to stamp out child labour, there is an easy first step that they haven’t done yet, which is paying the farmers a lot more for their beans.”

“Mondelez made over $4 billion in profit last year, so the money is there. But on the farms, these farmers can’t afford to replace their children with an adult labourer.”

Riggs called on British consumers to send a message to the chief executive of Mondelez, Dirk Van de

Put, who earned some $18m last year. She said: “If we choose not to buy Cadbury products, that message will go straight to the CEO of Mondelez. And that in turn, will force them to rethink their policies and begin to treat these farmers properly.”

Dispatches wanted to interview Mr Van de Put but he declined. Instead in a statement Mondelez said: “We are deeply concerned by the incidents documented in Dispatches. We explicitly prohibit child labour in our operations and have been making significant efforts through our Cocoa Life programme to improve the protection of children in the communities where we source cocoa. We strongly refute any allegation that Mondelez benefits from child labour, which we have relentlessly taken a stand against.

Dispatches
Image credit: Dispatches Channel 4

The welfare of the children and families featured is our primary concern and we commit to investigating further. As part of our Cocoa Life programme, we have Child Labour Monitoring and Remediation Systems in place which means community members and NGO partners are trained to provide assistance to vulnerable children and help to address any cases of child forced labour.”

Child labour is outlawed in Ghana and its laws ban children under 13 working on farms and prohibit anybody under 18 doing so-called “hazardous work” which is considered by the UN’s International Labour Organisation as the “worst forms of child labour”. As a result, many people linked to the industry are unwilling to talk openly about the problem which the large confectionary companies pledged to stamp out more than 20 years ago.


Cadbury Exposed: Dispatches, Channel 4, is available to watch on All 4.


This article was written by Derrick Mutamba.

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