New research provides important insights for all those working to end child labor in cocoa in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana,… Read More
According to the International Labor Organization, child labor is widespread in African agriculture, which is largely based on family farms. A recent report by NORC at the University of Chicago indicates that about 1.6 million children engage in child labor on cocoa farms in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, the two main cocoa-producing countries. Smallholder farmers often struggle there with poverty and poor infrastructure. They have few labor alternatives other than their children. Limited access to schools, cultural practices, lack of awareness and gender inequalities also drive child labor.
This is not right. WCF helps achieve Sustainable Development Goal 8.7 and 5 by convening cocoa and chocolate companies in fighting child labor, fostering community development, increasing access to quality education, improving child survival and empowering women.
The Challenge of Child Labor and Cocoa
What Are We Doing to Stop Child Labor in Cocoa?
Cocoa and chocolate companies, governments and partners such as the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI) have been working together to eliminate child labor in cocoa. For example, they convened under the 2001 Harkin-Engel Protocol and the 2010 Framework of Action.
With a focus on boosting and diversifying farmer income, child labor monitoring and remediation, gender empowerment, school construction and rehabilitation, and awareness-raising, these programs have had good results where they were implemented and need to be expanded:
- A recent study demonstrates that hazardous child labor has been reduced by one-third in communities where company programs are in place.
- Governments’ actions on education have led to almost all children now attending school in Ghana, and 4 out 5 in Côte d’Ivoire.
- A more than 60 percent increase in total cocoa production over the past 10 years did not bring a similar surge in child labor.
Now, more investments and a focus on the root causes of child labor are needed to scale up impact. We are working on a more transformational approach to ending child labor in cocoa with producing and consuming governments, UN agencies, farmer groups, and civil society organizations.
Is There Forced Labor in Cocoa?
Forced labor in agriculture has been a persistent and abhorrent global issue. The U.S. Department of Labor flags forced labor risk in peanuts from Bolivia, sugarcane from Brazil, sesame from Burma, tomatoes from Mexico, cotton from Pakistan, fish from Thailand, cotton from Uzbekistan, and cocoa from West Africa.
Forced labor is not the same as child labor. How? Read this explainer by ILO’s Benjamin Smith for more details.
The cocoa and chocolate industry has zero tolerance for any instances of forced labor, modern slavery or human trafficking in the supply chain. Though unacceptable, forced labor is extremely rare in cocoa farming, with about 1% of children in child labor estimated to be in that very serious situation. Any evidence found by companies is reported to the local authorities who have the power to pursue, arrest and bring to justice the perpetrators.
Empowered women are formidable catalysts for sustainable community development. They are involved in almost all stages of cocoa production, providing an estimated 50% of the labor force. However, women are often marginalized from services and decision-making. Strategies such as microfinance, improved access to land ownership and membership in farmer groups or cooperatives can have a positive impact on women and their families.
WCF’s CocoaAction and Cocoa Livelihoods Program contributed to Sustainable Development Goal 5, achieving gender equality, by working to empower women and girls. Gender empowerment is now included in all World Cocoa Foundation activities.
Access to Quality Education
Cocoa and chocolate companies invest to achieve systemic change in education, with co-financing and expertise brought by partners such as the Jacobs Foundation. Access to quality education is also a means of combating the vicious circle of poverty, low productivity and child labor linked to illiteracy in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana.