Working undercover to reveal the extent of forced child labour in Côte d'Ivoire's cocoa industry, a Danish journalist openly was offered to buy as many children as he wanted for €200 each in Mali.
Miki Mistrati, a reporter at the Danish daily 'Extra Bladet', went undercover in Côte d'Ivoire and Mali, claiming to own a cocoa plantation, to investigate whether any progress had been made in reducing child labour and forced labour in the cocoa industry.
He was shocked to find out how openly the traffic in children was in the region. In several places, he easily came in contact with people willing to "sell children" for his imaginary cocoa plantation.
'Extra Bladet' reports that at one occasion, an agent picked up a larger number of children at a bus station in Mali. Mr Mistrati was offered to pick the children he wanted.
"Just tell me how many you will need. My brother will gather them for you," the Danish reporter was told. The price was set at around €200 for each child slave, reportedly "far above the market price," 'Extra Bladet' reports.
The reporter also was assisted by a Danish television crew, documenting "how children as young as 8 years old are sold and smuggled over the border to Côte d'Ivoire to work on cocoa plantations. The children are brought in from neighbouring countries such as Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger," according to the Danish state broadcaster 'DR'.
'DR' is airing a documentary based on these recordings this evening. The film includes interviews with four boys, aging between 10 and 12, smuggled from Burkina Faso to a cocoa plantation near Abidjan. The boys do not speak the local language, are denied access to school, left to sleep and fed only once a day.
The use of child and slave labour in the Ivorian cocoa industry has been well known for a long time. A 2004 report by a US government agency concludes that over 100,000 children are involved in worst forms of child labour in the West African country.
Earlier revelations and scandals caused the international cocoa and chocolate industry to launch a widely publicised strategy in 2001, which aimed at making the industry child labour free by 2005. Under much less publicity, the industry later downgraded its aim to reduce the use of child labour by 50 percent within 2008. Recent research indicate even this aim was not met.
The Ivorian police reports it has been left mostly alone in its efforts to fight child slavery in the country. In a series of raids against cocoa plantations since 2006, police have liberated around 350 children, some as young as 6 years, and arrested 48 traffickers.
Authorities admit these numbers are only a drop in the ocean.