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Cocoa Production and Its Social Impact on West Africa


Cocoa is a necessary cash crop both for producing and consuming countries (Bales, 2004). The cocoa beans go through a rigorous and delicate process. Some of the challenges that farmers face in cocoa production include the weather patterns, insects and a number of diseases. Cocoa production is not an industrialized enterprise. Cocoa beans grow on small size farms run by the families. Due to this, most of the farmers use outdated farming practices.

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The demand for cocoa across the world has attracted a number of participants. As a result, most players in cocoa production end up using unethical means to reach their goals (Gervase & Smith, 1993). It is quite unfortunate that people who fall victim to these unethical practices are unsuspecting laborers and children. Cocoa production process is unethical and inhumane. I believe that cocoa production practices should take place within humane measures to protect the farmers from exploitation. This is the only way that the world will save the cocoa industry from exploitation.


Cocoa is a plant that grows in various parts of the world. These regions include Africa, Asia and some parts of Latin America. Ivory Coast is the leading global producer of cocoa (Gervase & Smith, 1993). Tropical climatic conditions are the best for cocoa beans production. The ideal climatic conditions within Ivory Coast enhance mass production of the cocoa beans. Cocoa is a primary raw material for the chocolate industries (Bales, 2004). Some of the industries that continue to benefit from cocoa production include Mars, Hershey and Nestle.

Social impact of cocoa production in West Africa

According to reports by the International Labor Organization, approximately 72 million West African children take part in cocoa production (Ajayi & Torimiro, 2004). It is quite unfortunate that some of the African parents sell their children to cocoa farmers at a fee. Furthermore, other children are abducted and sent to work in these farms.

Upon entering the cocoa farm, these children are deployed to remote cocoa plantations. Most of these children work in harsh and hostile environments. For instance, slave children work for 12 hours a day with little food provision. During the harvesting process, these children risk their lives by climbing cocoa trees (Bales, 2004).

Slave children work using machetes and other crude tools. Working with machetes exposes the children to bodily harm that is evident through scars and injuries (Gervase & Smith, 1993). It is not easy for these children to escape because most of the cocoa farms are located hundreds of miles away from local towns. Children who work in these farms do not enjoy their rights (Gervase & Smith, 1993). Most of them lack basic education that is necessary for survival. Other children suffer from psychological trauma that comes with working under harsh conditions.

It is quite unfortunate that countries, such as Nigeria and Ivory Coast have become notorious for supporting practices that expose farmers to exploitation (Ajayi & Torimiro, 2004). Even though companies like Nestle and Mars have denied supporting these unfair practices, research reveals that approximately 75% of the chocolate consumed in most parts of the United States comes from Ivory Coast (Bales, 2004). In an attempt to shed light on the plight of cocoa farmers in West Africa, the media has faced hindrance from some of these African nations.

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It is quite unfortunate that the cocoa production process comes with negative health implications (Gervase & Smith, 1993). Farmers face health complications without any meaningful compensation. Some of these complications include respiratory and reproductive health conditions. As a result, some families end up living with ailing parents. In worse case scenarios, some of the parents succumb to death leaving orphans.

Since early 1800s, the cocoa industry has continued to benefit from forced labor in West Africa. Despite the abolition of slave trade, cocoa plantations have continued to practice this vice. In a region where there is high poverty and violence, children have no choice but to work on these farms (Ajayi & Torimiro, 2004). While the world continues to savor in the joy of chocolate, it is important to note that there are people somewhere in the world who are facing inhumane conditions because of cocoa production.


Cocoa sector is a rapidly growing multibillion industry. However, consumers and producers should not focus on profits alone. Rather, each stakeholder should take practical steps towards creating a humane cocoa industry (Manzo, 2005). With each stride, the cocoa industry will become a flourishing sector for both the producers and consumers.

Consumers should get information regarding some of the chocolate producing companies. Before purchasing that chocolate bar from the store, it is important to find out whether you are supporting child labor or not (Manzo, 2005). Consumers should buy cocoa products from companies that do not support any form of exploitation. For example, the case of Cadbury when it boycotted Portuguese cocoa because of slavery related reports (Bales, 2004). Consumers should seek ways of advocating for ethical practices in the process of cocoa production. Some of these ways include boycotting to support companies that promote unethical practices.


Ajayi, A. & Torimiro, O. (2004). Perspectives on Child Abuse and Labour: Global Ethical Ideals Versus African Cultural Realities. Early Child Development and Care, 174 (2), 183-191.

Bales, K. (2004). Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy. Berkeley,CA: University of California Press.

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Gervase, W. & Clarence-Smith, B. (1993). Cocoa Plantations and Coerced Labor in the Gulf of Guinea. In M. Klein, Breaking the Chains, Slavery, Bondage, and Emancipation in Modern Africa and Asia (pp. 1870-1914).

Madison,WI: University of Wisconsin Press. Manzo, K. (2005). Modern Slavery, Global Capitalism and Deproletarianisation in West Africa. Review of African Political Economy, 106(32), 521-534.

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