Every year in Ghana thousands of children are sold into forced labor by parents desperate to raise money for the survival of their families. Many of these parents are so desperate that they've sold their children for a ten dollar bill. Human trafficking is a major problem in the U.S., but in Ghana, Africa, it's become an epidemic.
Standing along the shoreline of Ghana's cape coast -- you'll find hawkers trying to make a buck in the bustling port of Yeji. But in the shadows beneath the palm trees, you’ll find something else for sale: Children. Every single day traffickers bring children to Yeji to sell them. Fishermen are the customers. The children are no longer children. They're slaves. Today in Ghana, an 7,000 children ply the waters of Lake Volta, fishing. They have masters. They don't get paid; and they don't go to school. If they try to escape they are beaten.
"I’m at the mercy of my master. We pull the nets. It hardens our palms,” said Ruth, a child slave living on Lake Volta. “If we don't then our master will beat me and he will not give me food."
Life on Lake Volta is dangerous.
"The fishing business is very risky, and there have been children have drowned,” said Maxwell, a slave master.
Maxwell is a father; but he's also a slave master. And as hard as it is to digest -- he admits, as a child, for seven years, his parents sold him into slavery.
“I would cry and cry for my parents to take me back,” said Maxwell. “They couldn’t because my contract period had not elapsed. I remember I didn’t want to work and if I didn’t they would beat me, and often times I thought my parents did not love me because of what they had done.”
Maxwell lives inside a tiny remote fishing village on the windy shores of Lake Volta called Adovepke. It's a spiritual village; where God and religion are placed at the forefront of everyday life. Peeking out of the windows of make shift huts are skinny, bare-chested boys and little girls wearing tattered shorts. Along the shoreline boys are dragging their masters’ hand-crafted wooden boats out from the sand; and painted across the bow, you'll find spiritual words that fill your mind with hope. For many of the slaves living inside a village filled with darkness, finding hope seems inconceivable; but the smiles speak differently.
Nicole: How much does a child cost?
Chris Field: "We've heard figures as low as low as $20 U.S. dollars for a child.”
Emmanuel is a hard working fisherman; a father; and as I quickly learn: a slave-master.
Nicole Morten: "Child trafficking is illegal, so why do you think it's okay to purchase children?”
Emmanuel: Their mother didn't have money so I went to collect them and I pay money to the mother.It is because of poverty."
Maxwell says one family was so desperate; he once traded a cow for their 12-year old boy.
Many of the villagers here were at one time sold into slavery. And they openly talk about it.
“We’re dealing with an epidemic that's going on for decades,” said Josh Marion of Mercy Project.
Josh Marion has been temporarily living in the village with his wife helping the villagers build fishing cages. Farm fishing is a new method of fishing the villagers have never known and one that Mercy Project hopes will permanently eliminate the need for child slaves.
Nicole: Were the fisherman pretty receptive to the idea of Aquaculture fishing?"
Chris Field: “Once they see this idea and they understand the science behind it, they're all excited about it and all over it because they see, this is our future and something is going to have to give; we can't keep fishing the way we're fishing because it's not going to work. If we're going to be able to provide for our families it's going to be a new method that's going to have to happen.”
“We need more help from you people. The fishing cages are expensive; but once the fish grow, we know it will help us in our future,” said Maxwell.
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