‘The Dark Side of Chocolate’ brings out strong message

Tanner Ballengee / Washburn Review

The Topeka Center for Peace and Justice is an organization that helps spread education and social change for the greater good for the community and the world.

On Thursday evening, Oct. 1, the group showed the independent documentary, “The Dark Side of Chocolate.”

The documentary, produced by filmmakers Miki Mistrati and U. Roberto Romano, showcases and brings to light the issue of child labor and human trafficking on the cocoa plantations of Africa. These plantations grow and harvest the cocoa beans for big name chocolate companies such as Nestlé.

The film starts with its two makers doing their own investigative journalism by journeying to the western coasts of Africa to the country of Mali. This is where children were rumored to be smuggled from and transported to the Ivory Coast. The filmmaking duo did their hands-on investigating with the use of a hidden camera inside of a shoulder bag.

Their detective work lead them to find that Mali was trafficking children at bus stations, by bribing them with work and money or simply kidnapping them from villages. They are then taken to towns near the border such as Zegoua, where another trafficker transports the children over the border on a dirt-bike via back-roads, where they are left with a third trafficker who then sells the children to plantations.

Ranging from age 10 to 15, these children are forced to do hard labor, physically and sexually abused and are usually never paid. Most of them stay with the plantation until they die, never seeing their family again. Technically, child labor and trafficking is illegal according to a 2001 agreement that was signed by all major chocolate companies, promising not to be harvesting their cocoa beans through means of child workers.

When confronted with this issue, the corporate representatives of some of these companies denied all rumors of child labor and trafficking, but the investigations of the filmmakers proved otherwise. This was very dangerous for the two, since in the past, other journalists have disappeared.

After the film, the Topeka Center for Peace and Justice sold fair trade chocolate bars that they were not derived from child labor.

The group also enlightened the listeners that these child slavery problems in Africa can be fought by writing to the big chocolate companies with your opinions and demanding more fair trade chocolate from your local stores. The Topeka Center for Peace and Justice also plans to show more films like “The Dark Side of Chocolate” in the future.