U instructor talks labor and cocoa

Heather Hayes’ time in Africa has become a focal point in her classrooms.

by Kevin Burbach

While living in Africa for more than a year, University of Minnesota instructor Heather Hayes saw firsthand the problem of child labor in the chocolate industry that prompted her to bring it into the classroom.

According to the 10 Campaign, an organization created to promote awareness of child labor in the chocolate industry, 1.8 million children work on cocoa farms in Ghana and the Ivory Coast. An estimated 400,000 of those children are under the age of 12.

Hayes, a graduate instructor of communications, lived in Kenya and spent time in Ghana after graduating in 2001.

According to the World Cocoa Foundation, 70 percent of the worldâÄôs cocoa comes from Ghana and Ivory Coast. Cocoa beans arenâÄôt grown in the United States because the optimal location is within 10 degrees north or south of the equator.

Hayes said she uses her experiences in her classes,Argumentation in the fall and Intercultural Communication in the spring, to make it real for students.

âÄúItâÄôs one thing if you read about this industry,âÄù she said. âÄúItâÄôs another to actually live there and see these abuses first hand.âÄù

Hayes incorporates the issue into her curriculum because she wants to make students aware and to make them think differently, she said.

âÄúI want students to think beyond âÄòIâÄôm hungry for a HersheyâÄôs bar, so IâÄôll pay a dollar ten for it.âÄôâÄù

Kaitlyn Patia, one of HayesâÄô fellow graduate instructors, agreed. Patia started bringing up chocolate industry child labor in her classes at HayesâÄô suggestion, and also had Hayes come and speak to her classes.

âÄúI like to get across to students the extent to which their individual choices are part of a larger system,âÄù Patia said.

Along with some investigative research thatâÄôs been published on the issue, Hayes shows students a documentary called âÄúThe Dark Side of Chocolate.âÄù

Hayes speaks to other communication classes. like PatiaâÄôs, as well as courses in Pan-African studies and sociology.

âÄúIt encourages students who didnâÄôt know anything about this to learn more,âÄù Hayes said, and it has encouraged students to study abroad.

A student from one of her classes said HayesâÄô experience brought a sense of realism to the readings.

âÄúI was a little skeptical, but having Heather there to answer questions with her firsthand experience was super helpful,âÄù said Alex Ford-Lorenzin, who is taking HayesâÄô argumentation course this semester.

Patia said Hayes plays an important role in shedding light on a relatively unknown issue.

Hayes hasnâÄôt published any research on the chocolate industry, but didnâÄôt rule it out for the future. SheâÄôs happy with spreading the word to students on campus, she said.

âÄúI think itâÄôs just as important to talk about [the issue] in the classroom as it is to research and publish.âÄù

In 2001, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Rep. Eliot Engel, D-New York, passed the Harkin-Engel Protocol to try to end child labor in the chocolate industry.

Hayes spent time in HarkinâÄôs office over the summer working with research assistants on how to shape effective U.S. policy on the cocoa industry.