Nestlé, ADM and Cargill face a lawsuit from three former child slaves who worked on cocoa farms supplying the firms © 123RF
Nestlé, ADM and Cargill face a lawsuit from three former child slaves who worked on cocoa farms supplying the firms © 123RF

Cargill tackles child labour in cocoa supply chain

Food and agriculture giant Cargill has partnered with the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI) to improve efforts to stop child labour in Cote d’Ivoire.

The ICI, which promotes child protection in cocoa growing, will help establish a monitoring system in Cargill’s cocoa supply chain to identify and protect children.

The announcement comes in the wake of last month’s decision by the US Supreme Court that Nestlé, ADM and Cargill could be held accountable for aiding and abetting child slavery in the 1990s. The court allowed a class action lawsuit, initiated in 2005 by three former child slaves, to proceed in the US.

The system, named Child Labour Monitoring and Remediation System (CLMRS), will be embedded in the monitoring and evaluation programme for the Cargill Cocoa Promise, the company’s sustainability programme, and will be piloted in eight farmer cooperatives in Cote d’Ivoire this year.

The joint model aims to reach nearly 7,000 cocoa farming households to help Cargill identify and understand incidences of child labour so that appropriate remediation can take place.

Sustainability director at Cargill Cocoa and Chocolate Taco Terheijden said: “At Cargill we recognise that we cannot tackle child labour in cocoa farming communities on our own.

“Working together with ICI and the cooperatives on establishing CLMRS is a crucial next step in the important journey to both understand and eradicate child labour from our coca supply chains.”

Last year, ICI trained Cargill’s network of lead farmers to serve as agents to lead interventions and help children escape child labour.

As members of the community, the lead farmers were trained to conduct regular household interviews, collect and share relevant socio-economic data and provide education on the dangers of child labour.

ICI’s executive director Nick Weatherill said: “The more companies that adopt the principle of CLMRS into their supply chains, the better our chances to achieve a change in child protection and cocoa sustainability.”

Nestlé has also used CLMRS and 2,400 children are being assisted who were found to be involved in dangerous occupations through a 2012 pilot. 

In the 2005 lawsuit three individuals allege they were trafficked from Mali as children and forced to work harvesting cocoa beans without pay in Cote d’Ivoire. They were kept in locked rooms when not working and suffered severe physical abuse by those guarding them. 

The plaintiffs allege Nestlé, ADM and Cargill aided, abetted or failed to prevent the torture, forced labour and arbitrary detention that they had suffered as child slaves because of the economic benefits to their companies.

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