[On July 30, 2015, Tulane University researchers released their latest study — “Survey Research on Child Labor in West African Cocoa Growing Areas”– we present highligths here written and compiled by Mary Donovan, contributing writer to the CLC.]
- Child labor in cocoa production in West Africa is increasing. The total numbers of children in cocoa production, child labor in cocoa production, and hazardous work by children in cocoa production in West Africa all increased from 2009/10 to 2013/14. In 2013/14 there were 2,260,407 children working in cocoa production in West Africa. 1,303,009 of those children work in Cote d’Ivoire and 957,398 work in Ghana.
- A plan to eliminate child labor in the industry exists. Fifteen years ago, representatives of the international cocoa industry signed the Harkin-Engel Protocol “to eliminate the worst forms of child labor in the cocoa sectors of Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire.” The Protocol provides a framework for accountability and outlines action steps. The Ministers of Labor from Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire signed a Declaration of Joint Action to support the implementation of the Protocol in 2010. In spite of this initiative, child labor in cocoa production in West Africa has increased.
- Cote d’Ivoire experienced an especially large growth. The numbers of children working in cocoa production increased by 59%, the number of children doing child labor in cocoa production increased by 48%, and the number of children doing hazardous work in cocoa production grew by 46%. Cote d’Ivoire is the world’s largest cocoa producer.
- The number of children working in cocoa production fell slightly in Ghana. Five years of peace allowed the government to make social and environmental improvements. However there is still progress to be made, with 1 million children in cocoa production and over 50% of children working in cocoa production doing hazardous work.
- 2.03 million children were found in hazardous work in cocoa production in the countries combined. Some of the types of work Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana consider to be hazardous are working alone on a farm, cutting down trees, burning fields, applying chemicals, carrying heavy loads, and using machetes.
- More children have been exposed to dangerous chemicals. The number of children in hazardous work exposed to agro-chemicals increased by over 44%. Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana both prohibit the exposure of children to these kinds of chemicals. Agro-chemicals pose a greater risk to children than adults.
- Both girls and boys work in cocoa production in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire. In 2013/14 around 60% of boys and 40% of girls were involved in child labor in agriculture.
- Migration within the two countries impacts cocoa production. Older children and young adults are more likely to migrate away from agricultural areas, leaving a very young and very old workforce. Cote d’Ivoire also has a large population of immigrants, mostly from Burkina Faso, who often migrate to cocoa growing areas.
- Access to education improved. The percentage of children from 5-17 years attending school increased in both countries. In 2013/14, 71% of children working in cocoa production attended school in Cote d’Ivoire, and 96% in Ghana attended school. Both governments have prioritized education, and have made efforts not to let work interfere with a child’s right to education.
- There is work to do. 1.5 million children need to be removed from hazardous work in cocoa production by 2020 to meet the Framework for Action of the Harkin-Engel Protocol. This goal is increasingly difficult with a growing global demand for chocolate and increased cocoa production in Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana. The Protocol still remains relevant as a plan of action to eliminate child labor in the West African cocoa industry.
The full report, “Survey Research on Child Labor in West African Cocoa Growing Areas,” by Tulane University may be viewed here.