New Research Insights for Brighter Future for Children in Cocoa

Richard Scobey

Author Richard Scobey

President
World Cocoa Foundation

New research provides important insights for all those working to end child labor in cocoa in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, where most of the main ingredient is grown for chocolate.

The first piece of research, by NORC at the University of Chicago, assesses the progress in reducing child labor of governments, companies, civil society, and cocoa growing communities. The second, also by NORC, takes a closer look at how successful company programs have been in the fight against child labor in cocoa supply chains.

The first report shows there are today still too many children in cocoa farming doing work for which they are too young, or work that endangers them — and child labor has no place in the cocoa supply chain. Child labor remains a persistent challenge in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, despite major efforts by the governments, cocoa and chocolate companies, cocoa-growing communities, and development partners. What is clear now is that targets to reduce child labor were set without fully understanding the complexity and scale of a challenge heavily associated with poverty in rural Africa. They also did not anticipate the significant increase in cocoa production over the past decade.

It is important to note this report, led by the U.S. Department of Labor, is not about the abhorrent practices of forced child labor or forced adult labor in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, which other studies show is extremely rare in the cocoa sector.

The report has important insights to help better understand where the cocoa sector is making progress and where improvement or course-correction is required. It confirms that the more than 60 percent increase in total cocoa production in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana over the past 10 years did not bring a similar surge in child labor. Government and company programs led to a reduction in child labor.

This conclusion is consistent with NORC’s second piece of research commissioned by the World Cocoa Foundation. It shows that hazardous child labor — for example, lifting heavy weights, using sharp tools, spraying pesticides — has been reduced by one-third in communities where company programs are in place. This finding is consistent with results from work by the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI), which shows that child labor can be reduced by one-half among those child laborers identified by company due diligence measures.

These efforts include WCF member company investments of more than $215 million since 2001 in programs in partnership with Ivorian and Ghanaian cocoa communities, to fight child labor. These investments have focused on boosting and diversifying farmer income, child labor monitoring and remediation through community and supply chain-based systems, gender empowerment, construction and rehabilitation of schools, provision of school supplies and other education support services, and awareness-raising – all in close partnership with the governments and civil society organizations.

Bernice, a teenager from the Mehame cocoa community in Ghana, shows us how these programs can succeed. She worked on her parents’ cocoa farm and this only stopped when an industry funded Community Child Protection Committee talked to her family about the dangers this posed to Bernice. She is now away from the fields and learning tailoring in an apprenticeship.

NORC’s recommendation is that existing company efforts should be expanded to more communities : “… efforts to combat child labor and hazardous child labor in respective supply chains should be increased given current successes,” said the study.

Companies, the governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, civil society organizations and all stakeholders involved in the fight against child labor, now know more about what works – and are scaling up these efforts for impact.

  • To protect children, leading companies will increase the coverage of child labor monitoring and remediation systems to 100% by 2025, from about 20% in 2019, in their direct supply chains in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana.
  • To ensure access to quality education, the government in Côte d’Ivoire intends to launch a $120 million pooled funding facility for primary education in partnership with the Jacobs Foundation that aims to reach 5 million children, with $25 million expected from industry.
  • To help raise farmers out of poverty, companies have supported the new Living Income Differential pricing policy of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana in 2020/21 that will provide an estimated $1.2 billion in additional revenues for cocoa farmers on top of official market prices.
  • To boost household incomes and yields, leading companies will reach 100% coverage by 2025 of all farmers in their direct supply chains in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana with training, coaching, or farm development plans on good agricultural practices.

We also need a more transformational approach to ending child labor in cocoa.

Cocoa and chocolate companies are committed to launching a new public-private partnership with the producing and consuming governments, UN agencies, farmer groups, and civil society organizations to tackle the root causes of child labor, which is heavily associated with poverty.

Only by taking this more direct and comprehensive approach can we ensure today’s generation of children reach their full potential and have a chance at the bright future they deserve.