Child labour in cocoa supply chains is a 'persistent challenge'

26 October 2020

More than 1.5m children are working in West Africa’s cocoa production supply chains despite pledges by major international food brands to stop using child labour, a new report has found.

The report, sponsored by the US Department of Labor (DOL)and carried out by non-partisan and objective research organisation NORC, found there were around 790,647 children in child labour in Côte d’Ivoire and 765,754 children in child labour in Ghana in 2018/19.

In 2010, representatives from the International Chocolate and Cocoa Industry and the DOL signed a declaration and framework which committed to take steps to address child labour in cocoa supply chains.

The industry promised a 70% reduction in the worst forms of child labour in the cocoa sectors of the two countries in the aggregate by 2020.

The report carried out 2,809 household head surveys, 5,552 child surveys, 158 community surveys, 372 cocoa shed surveys, and 260 school surveys across Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire to reach its figures.

It found that in cocoa growing areas, 38% of children in Côte d’Ivoire and 55% of children in Ghana living in agricultural households were engaged in child labour in cocoa production.

However as international cocoa production has increased by 14% since 2014, the number of children working in cocoa supply chains stayed the same. 

Worryingly, most of the children working in the cocoa supply chain were involved in hazardous tasks such as wielding machetes, carrying heavy loads or working with pesticides.

Richard Scobey, president of the World Cocoa Foundation, said: “The 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 labour has no place in the cocoa supply chain.

“Child labour 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.”

The report said it was clear that targets to reduce child labour were set without fully understanding the complexity and scale of the challenge or the significant increase in cocoa production over the past decade.

On a positive note, the report welcomed the fact the surge in cocoa production was not accompanied by a rise in child labour, adding that forced child labour or forced adult labour in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana was extremely rare in the cocoa sector.

It also welcomed the fact that areas closely targeted by government and company programmes saw a reduction in child labour.

A second piece of research commissioned by the World Cocoa Foundation showed that hazardous child labour had been reduced by one-third in communities where company programmes are in place.

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