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The unpalatable cause of poverty

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As arguments rage over cuts in Britain’s international aid budget, Liberal Democrats could help expose some of the mechanisms which create and sustain poverty.  On Tuesday December 1st, that brand household name Nestle is going the U.S. Supreme Court to argue that it should be allowed to use slavery to farm and ship raw cocoa from west Africa in order to make our chocolate.

Let me repeat that.  Nestle, whose profits last year were $15 billion, insists it has a right to make money from slavery.  In technical terms, it wants to be granted corporate legal immunity.

I first reported on this dreadful practice of child slavery on west African cocoa farms in 2000 for the BBC. The confectionary industry executives with their plush offices and multi-million pound executive bonuses rounded on me, with accusations that I was inventing and fabricating. I wasn’t. The BBC supported the story. I went back to the Ivory Coast, Mali and Ghana time and time again.

Despite promises from confectionary companies and the British government, the culture of slavery and poverty did not only continue, it got worse. A recent U.S. Dept of Labor report found more than two million children were now working on the west African cocoa farms from which Nestle gets its supplies. Many of the children are trafficked, held against their will with no schooling or health care. They are victims of long-standing arrangements between governments and corporations to retain cheap or free labour in favour of high profits.

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Recent Comments

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