ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast — West Africa’s cocoa industry is still trafficking children and using forced child labor despite nearly a decade of efforts to eliminate the practices, according to an independent audit published by Tulane University.
A U.S.-sponsored solution called the Harkin-Engel Protocol was signed in 2001 by cocoa industry members to identify and eliminate cocoa grown using forced child labor. A child-labor-free certification process was supposed to cover 50 percent of cocoa growing regions in West Africa by 2005 and 100 percent by the end of 2010. But independent auditors at Tulane University’s Payson Center for International Development said in a late September report that efforts have not even come close to these targets.
“Hundreds of thousands of children are involved in work on cocoa farms,” the report said. Child trafficking for labor also continues virtually unabated as well, it said.
Thousands of children travel from impoverished neighboring countries to the cocoa plantations in Ivory Coast, where some of them live in substandard conditions and receive little or no pay.
Research in border areas shows that only a tiny proportion of children in cocoa farming ever see a police officer on their way over the border, and that police officers are not properly trained to deal with such crossings. Almost none of the children have any contact with NGOs or anti-child-labor organizations while working.
The Harkin-Engel Protocol set up
community-based education and monitoring programs in Ivory Coast and Ghana — the world’s two largest cocoa growers — to improve the situation. The International Cocoa Initiative (ICI), an industry funded organization charged with implementing the protocol, said because of the protocol thousands of children are no longer working in exploitative conditions on cocoa plantations in both countries.But industry efforts are “uneven” and “incomplete,” the report said. Less than three percent of cocoa growing villages have been visited by monitors in Ivory Coast and across the border in Ghana, only 13 percent of communities have been impacted by the program.
The Swiss non-governmental group Bern Declaration, which campaigns for fairness in international trade, said Tuesday that the study’s findings prove the existence of “the worst forms of child labor on West African cocoa plantations and the fact that efforts to date by the chocolate industry to prevent this have failed.”
The Ivorian government admits that progress has been slower than anticipated, but points to several key advances.
“Last week, we passed a law prohibiting the worst forms of child labor,” said Mokie Sigui, head of the anti child labor taskforce at the Ministry of Labor. “Some infractions carry 20 year prison sentences.”
Sigui said the government is building two youth centers in cocoa growing regions where exploited children can be identified and then put back into school.
Manufacturers in the chocolate industry have also set up projects to help keep kids in schools and off the plantations, but the poverty of many families in West Africa makes it impossible for them to pass up the temptation to send their children to work.
“We need to help improve the social and economic situation there so that people can help themselves,” said Franz Schmid, spokesman for the Association of Swiss Chocolate Manufacturers, Chocosuisse. He also said that cocoa companies need to know where raw materials come from.
Several international certification bodies are currently working to certify sustainable cocoa farms across the region. Though only four percent of the world’s cocoa is now considered sustainable, that figure is projected to rise to over 40 percent by 2020.
The British chocolate bar Galaxy became the first to use 100 percent sustainable cocoa earlier this year, and it should soon be followed by several others. In the Netherlands, the government signed a pledge with chocolate manufacturers to offer only sustainable chocolate countrywide by 2025.
In the U.S., only Kraft has plans to carry chocolate labeled as certified sustainable, but the world’s biggest buyer of cocoa, the American company Mars, has pledged to purchase only sustainable cocoa by 2020.
Swiss chocolate makers such as Nestle and Barry Callebaut — whose chocolate is found in one in four cocoa and chocolate products worldwide — didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
Despite best efforts, the product certification approach is always going to be flawed, said Frank Bremer, director of the German development agency GTZ in Abidjan. GTZ discontinued its projects in cocoa growing communities in Ivory Coast in 2009.
“With 700,000 to 800,000 small family farms in Ivory Coast, trying to guarantee the origin of each individual cocoa bean is virtually impossible,” he said.
While millions are spent on labeling and certification, he said, “no one has been working with the victims of this practice — the children.”
Another part of the problem is misappropriated funding. The ICI reports having spent $14.5 million since 2001, but the auditors could find only $5.5 million spent in programming on the ground. The cocoa industry would have to spend 42.5 times more in Ivory coast to abate the problem in 100 percent of cocoa growing communities, it said.
In September, the original sponsors of the protocol, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), pledged an additional $10 million to the program, urging those involved to redouble efforts.
Associated Press writer Frank Jordans in Geneva contributed to this report.
| 10/ 8/10 08:09 AM |
[From Huffington Post
— A report says West Africa’s cocoa industry is still trafficking children and using forced child labor despite nearly a decade of efforts to eliminate the practices.
A U.S.-sponsored solution called the Harkin-Engel Protocol was signed in 2001 by cocoa industry members to identify and eliminate cocoa grown using forced child labor in West Africa by 2010.
Independent auditors at Tulane University’s Payson Center for International Development said in a late September report that efforts have not come close to the target.
The report says that hundreds of thousands of children are still involved in work on cocoa farms, and are trafficked to Ivory Coast and Ghana, the world’s two largest cocoa growers.
“Bitter” Chocolate: New Report on Child Labor in Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana Offers Further Evidence that Hershey, Cocoa Industry, Are Failing
WASHINGTON, Sept. 30 –
New Tulane University Report Indicates That Egregious Labor Rights Violations Persist In the Cocoa Sector; In Response, Groups Call On Hershey To Adopt Fair Trade Certification for Its Chocolate.
WASHINGTON, Sept. 30 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Payson Center for International Development at Tulane University released its fourth annual report on Oversight of Public and Private Initiatives to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor in the Cocoa Sector in Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana. The report underscores the lack of progress that is being made by voluntary programs adopted by the cocoa industry to address the problems of child and forced labor in West Africa. In response, national nonprofits Global Exchange, Green America, International Labor Rights
Forum, and Oasis USA called on Hershey, the largest US chocolate company, to take action to end child and forced labor in its supply chain and to adopt Fair Trade Certified cocoa.
The report identifies the ongoing exploitation of labor rights in the cocoa sector including the worst forms of child labor, forced labor and trafficking. Â New research related to the trafficking of young workers from Burkina Faso and Mali found that:
- Cote d’Ivoire is the predominant destination for trafficked and migrant cocoa workers;
- The overwhelming majority of respondents moved to cocoa farms without their natural parents or guardians;
- Virtually all respondents experienced the worst forms of child labor including: verbal, physical and sexual harassment and restrictions of their freedom of movement;
- Virtually all respondents performed hazardous work including land clearing and burning, carrying heavy loads, spraying pesticides, and using machetes, among other dangerous activities.
In response to the Tulane Report, Global Exchange, Green America, International Labor Rights Forum, and Oasis USA stated: “It is clear from this report that the cocoa industry is not doing enough to address these problems. The world’s largest chocolate manufacturers must do more to monitor their supply chains to combat child labor, forced labor and human trafficking. The Payson Center’s report recommends that companies institute traceability systems for their cocoa supply chains starting at or near the farm level and work with product certification schemes, which no longer represent a niche market. All of the certification programs operating in the West African cocoa sector should be reviewed to ensure that they appropriately identify and address child labor issues. The report identifies major industry actors that have made commitments in this area, including Mars, Kraft, Nestle and Cargill.”Hershey stands out as the only major chocolate company missing from the list. The recent report “Time to Raise the Bar: the Real CSR Report for the Hershey Company” (issued by Global Exchange, Green America, International Labor Rights Forum, and Oasis USA) found that the Hershey corporation was the laggard in the cocoa industry regarding monitoring its supply chain. The report also found that Hershey lacked transparency and traceability when it came to its cocoa sourcing, as well as meaningful programs to address labor violations in the cocoa-growing communities of West Africa, from where it sources. As the dominant chocolate company in the US, the report calls on Hershey to “Raise the Bar” and adopt Fair Trade Certification for its best selling bar by 2012, and all of its top selling chocolate products by 2022.”
The Payson Center’s Report can be downloaded here:
“Time to Raise the Bar: The Real CSR Report for the Hershey Company” is available at the following websites:
Green America: https://www.greenamerica.org/pdf/HersheyReport.pdf
International Labor Rights Forum: https://laborrights.org/stop-child-forced-labor/cocoa-campaign/resources/12395
Oasis USA: https://www.oasisusa.org/index.php/projects/the_chocolate_campaign/
ABOUT THE GROUPS
GLOBAL EXCHANGE is a membership-based international human rights organization dedicated to promoting social, economic and environmental justice around the world.
GREEN AMERICA is a non-profit organization whose mission is to harness economic power—the strength of consumers, investors, businesses, and the marketplace—to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable society.
THE INTERNATIONAL LABOR RIGHTS FORUM is an advocacy organization dedicated to achieving just and humane treatment for workers worldwide.
OASIS USA is a non-profit organization committed to developing communities where everyone is included, making a contribution, and reaching their God-given potential.
SOURCE Green America, Washington, DC