We are introduced to Danish journalist, Miki Mistrati, early in the documentary as he travels to the Sikasso bus station in Mali, the starting point of the majority of child trafficking occurring in the area.
Busses filled with 10 to 12 year old, hopeful children cross into the border of the Ivory Coast where children are then taken by traffickers into the various cocoa plantations in the area and forced to work under hazardous working conditions and for no pay.
Mariam, a young girl who almost fell victim to trafficking, told the cameras how she was promised a steady job and was now fearful of returning to her parents who expected that she bring home money.
Unfortunately, Mariam’s story of false promises of work is all too common in the child trafficking industry while cases of prevention remain few and far between.
The Dark Side Of Chocolate continues
Later, the crew visited Ali Lakiss, CEO of Saf-Cacao, Ivory Coast’s largest domestically owned cocoa exporter. It was bitterly ironic to see how Mr. Lakiss so confidently claimed of there being no slavery or trafficking in the Ivory Coast’s cocoa plantations as undercover footage was shown of a group of young boys cutting down cocoa pods with machetes in a nearby plantation.
Children forced into labor
Like many children forced into labor, these kids did not attend school, could not speak the local language and admitted to being beaten by the plantation owners if not working hard enough. Even more disturbing was how such children are seen as profitable purchases; where for a mere 230 pounds, plantation owners could cover the cost for transport of a child and inherit an indefinite time of labor. Lakiss only admitted to a problem of child labor when presented with evidence from INTERPOL’s Operation BIA, where Ivory Coast police rescued 54 children working illegally in plantations and apprehended eight traffickers during a two-day operation last June of 2009.