20080111 child labor in ivory coast
Four-year-old Alpha, hits an aerosol can with a hammer for its aluminium to be reprocessed in Abidjan. Ivory Coast. Some allege that up to 90 percent of Ivorian cocoa supplies are produced by child slaves. At least 200,000 children annually fall victim to traffickers in the west and central African slave trade, the UNICEF estimates. - 


Doug Krizner: A group of U.S. lawmakers are in West Africa this week. They're looking at child labor abuses at cocoa plantations.

Ivory Coast is the world's largest cocoa producing country and the lifeblood of the global chocolate industry, but as Gretchen Wilson reports, that industry depends on child slave labor.

Gretchen Wilson: Both the State Department and UNICEF have documented forced child labor in the Ivory Coast. A report by the International Labor Rights Fund estimates 200,000 children work in that country's cocoa plantations. The report says many of those kids are used to spread pesticides.

Senators Bernie Sanders and Thomas Harkin and Congressman Eliot Engel toured the plantations this week. They're setting up a monitoring system to try to reduce slave labor and put the children in school instead, but the transition is complicated since farmers depend on the cheaper wages of children just to stay afloat in the global economy.

Most of the cocoa is used in the U.S. and Europe by multinational firms such as Nestle, M&M/Mars and Hershey's. Activists want these companies to certify their cocoa products as slave free.

I'm Gretchen Wilson for Marketplace.