WEST AFRICA – The multi-billion cocoa industry which is of significant economic importance to both the producing and consuming countries has been faced with a myriad of challenges, with the plague of child labour topping the list.

A recent report by a research group from the University of Chicago know as NORC, has revealed that 38 percent of children in Côte d’Ivoire and 55 percent of children in Ghana living in agricultural households were engaged in child labour in cocoa production during the 2018-19 season.

Amid a 62% increase in cocoa production between 2008/09 and 2018/19 in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana in aggregate, prevalence of child labor in cocoa production among all agricultural households increased 14 percentage points.

The findings are a blow to the cocoa and chocolate industry, which agreed a decade ago to cut the worst forms of child labour by 70% by 2020.

“Child labour remains a persistent challenge in Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana, despite major efforts by the governments, cocoa and chocolate companies, cocoa-growing communities, and development partners.”

World Cocoa Foundation President – Rick Scobey

NORC has spent the last five years working closely and collaboratively with ILAB, the governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, Industry (represented by the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF)), Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), and multiple international organizations with an interest in child labor (including UNICEF, the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI), and the International Labour Organization (ILO)).

The report is the outcome of that collaborative effort to accurately measure and report on the issue of child labor and hazardous child labor in the cocoa growing areas of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, indicates NORC.

As part of this study, the research group administered 2,824 roster surveys, 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.

Role of industry players in curbing child labour

In a bid to combat child labour, major chocolate companies have committed to help eradicate the menace from their supply chains as consumers and governments become more and more concerned about the origin of their food.

Barry Callebaut, a leading international cocoa processors and chocolate manufacturers recently disclosed its direct cocoa suppliers in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Cameroon.

Using the virtual map it had launched, it shows the location of cooperatives and buying stations where the company is directly sourcing cocoa.

Each pin point on the map details the geographical location, cooperative or district name, certification scheme and the number of farmers Barry Callebaut is sourcing from in its supply chain.

By publicly sharing this information, the cocoa and chocolate giant says it’s boosting transparency and traceability in its cocoa supply chain.

Olam Cocoa, a leading supplier of cocoa beans and ingredients to the industry, has achieved 100 percent traceability of directly sourced cocoa across its global supply chain, a commitment the company first made five years ago.

This means Olam can now track approximately 12 percent of the world’s cocoa beans back to an individual farm or community.

Beginning of the year, the company introduced the first of its kind, Child labour monitoring and remediation program to be rolled out in Cameroon as part of its global commitment to put children first by tackling child labour.

The new digitally-led initiative enhancing measures is aimed to help more children attend school across its entire direct supply chain.

“There are today still too many children in cocoa farming doing work for which they are too young, or work that endangers them,” said World Cocoa Foundation President Rick Scobey.

“Child labour remains a persistent challenge in Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana, despite major efforts by the governments, cocoa and chocolate companies, cocoa-growing communities, and development partners,” he added.

As part of efforts to resolve the issue, the Ghana COCOBOD is deploying a US$10 million information management system to improve transparency in the cocoa sector.

The system will provide growers and their farms unique identification numbers, allowing the regulator to scientifically prove the veracity of claims of child labour, among other issues.

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