While doing research for the final commodity chain project I found a lot of information about ties between Cocoa production and child slavery. In Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), the largest cocoa produce cocoa farmers have been found to be buying boys ages 12-16 from slave traders to reduce the cost of labor.
UNICEF estimates that 200,000 children are trafficked in west and central Africa every year. Cote d'Ivoire appears to be the end point for the Trafficking. Young boys are targeted with the promise of receiving gifts such as bicycles and receiving money they can send back to their families. However once they leave their home countries they are seldom heard from again.
Some slaves that have been freed and interviewed have reported horrendous living conditions. Aly Diabate, was lured from his home in Mali to work in Cote d'Ivorie. He reports that he andother workers would work 12+ hours a day and were forced to sleep in small houses with many other slaves. They had to urinate in cans since they were not allowed to leave the hut once they entered for the night. These living conditions are consistant with other reports by former slaves.
Slavery is obviously a point of social concern. The connection between cocoa production and slavery in Africa has lead to a strong push for Fair Trade cocoa. many companies have refused to purchase cocoa from plantations in Cote d'Ivorie, instead electing to purchase from co-ops. Co-ops often work with the farmers and communities to ensure that fair trade standards are upheld.
Co-ops offer corporations the ability to purchase large quantities of cocoa that could not be produced by a single farm. Plantations often have a competitive advantage over individual farmers because they have the ability to produce large amounts of cocoa at a relatively low cost. Co-ops allow farmers to compete by allowing them to pool resources and to purchase in bulk. Co-ops appear to be a solution to the socio-economic troubles associated with Cooca production.