Innovating and Inspiring for Greater Impact in Cocoa-Growing Communities

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Author Nick Weatherill

Executive Director
International Cocoa Initiative

When I grow up, I want to become a teacher,” explained Fatoumata, a young girl who lives in a cocoa-growing community in Côte d’Ivoire. She didn’t have a uniform, nor did she have the books she needed to learn. The Child Labor Monitoring and Remediation System identified her as at risk of becoming involved in child labor, but with remediation support she received the things she needed to help her continue to learn, attend school and gain the quality education to realize her dreams.

Ahead of World Day Against Child Labor, the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI) is looking back on progress and impacts achieved in tackling child labor over the last year and beyond, through supporting children like Fatoumata. We’re calling for a concerted push from within the cocoa sector to scale up action and protect even more children in the coming years. To mark the day, ICI is publishing its annual report, highlighting the achievements and lessons learned from its collaboration with partners and stakeholders in the cocoa sector.

Since 2015, ICI has grown considerably, establishing ourselves as both an operational partner and a thought-leader in the fight against child labor. We’ve improved the lives of over 380,000 children in cocoa-growing communities over the last five years. This means we have surpassed our direct-action target of reaching 375,000 children by the end of 2020.

Last year, we reinforced our monitoring and evaluation capacity to better measure the success of our work and learn from our results. An analysis of the last five years of our community development work confirmed a 20-30% reduction in child labor in communities we worked with, alongside increased school enrollment and improvements in income for cocoa-growing households (learn more about the impact of our community development work in Ghana in this four-film series). We also confirmed the potential of our Child Labor Monitoring and Remediation System (CLMRS) to reduce child labor by almost 50% among identified children. At the same time, we have broadened our understanding of the risk of relapse and the importance of measuring the severity and incidence of child labor.

All these findings serve two crucial purposes at ICI, which we believe will drive impact at scale.

First, we’re using this knowledge to adapt and innovate. We’ve channeled what we’ve learned from our community work into the development of new tools, such as our Child Labor Risk Calculator and we’re also refining and piloting operational models for child protection and forced labor risk management. With growing calls for mandatory human rights due diligence, we’ve made it our goal to ensure that both companies and governments can meet expectations through cost-effective, scalable approaches that deliver impact for vulnerable farming households.

Second, by providing evidence of impact and building shared knowledge of what works, we’re inspiring and motivating others in the supply chain to act. In the face of a widespread and persistent challenge like child labor, we know that it is easy to become discouraged by the scale of the task. That is why we are showing what is possible and focusing on how success can be scaled across the sector to accelerate progress. We’re building momentum among all responsible parties, enhancing the sector’s collective efforts, and ensuring investment is targeted at those interventions that we know are effective, such as monitoring and remediation systems and child-centered community development.

Progress is being made and the positive impacts we highlight in our 2019 annual report indicate that we are on the right track. The road ahead, however, remains a long and steep one. This World Day Against Child Labor is an opportunity for all stakeholders in the cocoa sector to come together, take stock, renew their commitment and invest new energy in scaling solutions that help children out of child labor and on to the future they deserve.