Addressing Child Labor with Broad Collaboration among Partners

Author Camilla Stecca

Senior Program Manager
Save the Children
Photo by International Cocoa Initiative

The International Labour Organization estimates that 152 million children worldwide are involved in child labor, nearly 1 in 10 of all children. Most work in agriculture, where accidents, hazardous work and work-related illnesses are common. As a global leader in children’s rights, Save the Children believes it is our responsibility to fight for the protection of every child.

Cocoa production is often associated with child labor and has a complex supply chain, with many tiers, organizations and issues involved. Having an impact therefore means being involved at every level and working from different angles to deal with the factors that lead to child labor.

Many factors, mostly associated with poverty, can hold back progress on child labor in cocoa. Among those is the prevalence of smallholder farmers, who may see no economic alternatives to using child labor. Farmers also may lack the means to access agroecological techniques that could enable them to work differently. Cultural awareness around gender equality, children’s rights and even the nuances between the terms “child labor” and “child work” can perpetuate the problem. And supply chains may lack the policies, regulations and penalties that control child labor.

Any solution to address child labor depends on collaboration, which is how our partnership with Ferrero in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana works. Now in its second phase, this five-year program encompasses a broad range of stakeholders: suppliers, cooperatives, farmers’ groups, governments, international initiatives and policymakers. The program’s goal is to identify and support the elimination of child labor from the cocoa supply chain in these two countries. It is important for us to closely coordinate all activities with national and local authorities and other industry initiatives to create synergies where possible and maximize impact.

To target its efforts as effectively as possible, our partnership works on the areas that are proven to correlate most closely with a lower risk of child labor. At the country and community level, we work on Child Protection Systems that increase access to protection against violence, exploitation and abuse. Throughout both countries, we focus on increasing children’s access to quality, inclusive and participatory education. We support community development, which creates an environment conducive to reducing child labor. And by working to empower women, adolescents and youth, we help these groups improve their economic and social lives. Finally, at an international level, our efforts look at the due diligence, policies and regulatory change that drive decisions in the market.

Save the Children and Ferrero also work to build capacity amongst Ferrero’s own suppliers and their partners, helping them to build a consistent approach to child protection. We will also carry out training for the cocoa supply chain in topics relating to children’s rights, child labor and hazardous work, child safeguarding, and workplace health and safety.

In partnership with the International Labour Organization, Ferrero has also pledged to eliminate child labor in cocoa sourcing communities in West Africa through partnerships.

Overall, our approach goes beyond remediation, towards eliminating the root causes of child labor.  However, it’s clear from our experience so far that while the participation of children, farmers and communities is essential, the entire supply chain must be actively engaged if initiatives to address child labor are to succeed. Everyone involved has a role to play to combat the issue and help make cocoa cultivation fairer, efficient, and sustainable.