There has been a lot going on about ethical chocolate and fair trade involving child labor and this specifically in Côte d'Ivoire. (Côte d'Ivoire produces almost half of the world's cocoa)
So here goes:
Yes, Côte d'Ivoire's chocolate plantations probably 'employ' children sometimes. Most African agronomy does in fact.
If you look at this from a Western perspective this might sound shocking, but,
- African children are much more autonomous than Western children and is is not unthinkable that they decide they want to earn some money by picking some cocoa for which they are paid by the kilo. They might do this for their family, or to have some money of their own. This does not necessarily mean they are being forced to work by their family.
- Mothers sometimes have to work, when the father is MIA, or unemployed, or dead or... and - given that there is no daycare or secundary caregiver, or just because the kids want to tag along - she can bring her kids along for work. It can so occur that the kids help their mother by picking up the cocoa buds that fell on the ground. Again, this doesn't mean they are forced to do so.
Maybe at some plantations here in Côte d'Ivoire kids are being forced to work, I cannot account for every single child in Côte d'Ivoire, but, much of this child slavery discourse is just about the Western world imposing its world view on Africa - again. Probably much of it is also about economic benefit and selling newspapers and getting funds for 'developing' nations.
Westerners cringe at the words 'child labor', but it does not mean the same here as it means over there. Moreover, in Belgium, young children babysit for money, or they do chores at home or for neighbors and relatives. Farm children tend to help their parents out a lot too. Is that child labor? Why would this here be any different?