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New CLC Press Release: Chocolate Companies Must Do More to Reduce Widespread Child Labor Confirmed by New Report on the West African Cocoa Sector; Due Diligence Legislation is Needed to Fix Supply Chains

Chocolate Companies Must Do More to Reduce Widespread Child Labor Confirmed by New Report on the West African Cocoa Sector; Due Diligence Legislation is Needed to Fix Supply Chains

 

For immediate release: October 21, 2020

Contact: Reid Maki, Child Labor Coalition, (202) 207-2820, reidm@nclnet.org 

 

Washington, DC – A new report out this week confirms that the chocolate industry’s deep dependence on child labor to produce cocoa, a main ingredient of chocolate, continues unabated in West Africa despite nearly two decades of interventions and manufacturers’ promises to end the worst forms of child labor. The  report confirms what advocates at the Child Labor Coalition (CLC), which consists of 38 child rights groups, consumer groups, and worker rights organizations (including several of America’s largest unions), have been saying for years. According to the new study by the research group NORC at the University of Chicago, the prevalence of child labor in agricultural households in cocoa-producing areas in the Ivory Coast and Ghana, the two primary sources of cocoa in the world, increased from 31 percent to 45 percent in the decade leading up to 2019.

 

The $3.5 million study, funded by U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), released earlier this week, confirms that rampant child labor still exists on Ivorian and Ghanaian cocoa farms. Researchers also concluded that the vast majority of the child labor continues to be hazardous, with children using sharp tools like machetes, clearing land, carrying heavy loads, working long hours, conducting night work, and increasingly using pesticides and other agrochemicals—a major concern.… Read the rest

After 20 Years of Little Results, New Approaches are Needed to End Child Labor in the Cocoa Sector

Here at the National Consumers League we are very proud that we’ve been a leader in the fight to end child labor since our founding in 1899. Thrity one years ago, we established the Child Labor Coalition (CLC), which merges the resources of nearly 40 groups that are committed to the fight to eliminate child labor. The CLC brings together several major unions and a variety of child rights and human rights groups to perform child labor advocacy.

In the last few years, the coalition has focused increasing energy on child labor in cocoa.  In 2001, news broke that cocoa–the main ingredient in chocolate–was being produced, in part, by large numbers of children who were trapped in the worst forms of child labor in West Africa. An alarmed U.S. Congress decided to act.  First, it threatened to mandate labels on candy bars to help consumers purchase child-labor-free chocolate.

The chocolate industry fought hard to derail the labeling system. In its place, Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) launched a multi-stakeholder initiative called the Harken-Engel Protocol. Eventually, it brought together the chocolate industry, the governments of Ghana and the Ivory Coast (where 70 percent of the world’s cocoa was produced) and the U.S. Department of Labor to try to tackle the problem. Over the next decade, over $70 million would be spent to fix cocoa’s child labor problem.

Child cocoa workers in West Africa. Photo by Robin Romano.

Despite these efforts, a creeping sense that remediation strategies weren’t really working began to emerge. In 2015, Tulane University researchers issued a federally-funded report that said the number of children in child labor in West African cocoa numbered over two million and had not declined. One bright spot was noted: most children in Ghana were attending school but in Ghana and the Ivory Coast children continued to toil, often without pay, and continued to use machetes, carry heavy loads, and apply pesticides—things that made their work dangerous.

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Today is National Chocolate Day….Something to Think about When You Enjoy Some Chocolate

There’s no doubt that humans love chocolate. Globally, we consume $80 to $100 billion worth of it a year. Despite its popularity and the joy it gives us, there is a dark side to chocolate: cocoa, its main ingredient, is often produced by child labor. The US Department of Labor (USDOL) identifies this as the case in six countries: Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.

In two of those countries, the Côte d’Ivoire and Nigeria, USDOL notes there is forced labor on cocoa plantations. There is also evidence that thousands of children have been trafficked to work on cocoa plantations from neighboring countries Mali, Burkina Faso, and Togo.

cocoa stat 1Exploitation in chocolate’s supply chain became hotly discussed in 2000 and 2001 when media reports about wide-spread child labor in the West Africa nations of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, where the majority of cocoa was being produced, were published.

Congressional leaders were alarmed about the reports. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) introduced legislation that would require child-labor free chocolate to be recognized with a label. The measure passed the US House of Representatives but it didn’t take long for everyone to realize that wanting child-labor free cocoa and delivering on that promise were two very different things. The nature of cocoa farming made it a very difficult crop to remove child labor from cocoa production. The region features hundreds of thousands of small cocoa farms operating in jungle-like topography. The region is lacking much infrastructure, including thousands of schools that would be needed to educate all the children working in cocoa.

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How Can We End Child Labor In The Fields? Pay Farmers Better

By Beth Hoffman, contributor to Forbes

A few weeks ago a request for internal documents from the chocolate giant Hershey’s Co moved forward, with a judge ruling that the company will have to share confidential information with its shareholders.  The Louisiana Municipal Police Employees’ Retirement System brought legal action against the company in 2012, asserting that the company knowingly bought cocoa from areas plagued with child labor issues.

Even though Hershey’s is the company targeted in the lawsuit, human rights abuses like child labor are still rampant throughout the food supply chain.  Although companies like Mars or Nestlé now publicly discuss child labor in their supply chains, these issues are unlikely to go away when these same companies rely upon cheap land and labor to operate.

Last week the UC Davis School of Law featured a full day conference “Confronting Child Labor in Global Agricultural Supply Chains.”  The conference featured a parade of impressive experts from a wide range of stakeholders, including Mars Co, Bonsucro, the International Labor Organization and the U.S. Department of Labor.  Each presented on the problem of child labor in the fields, and of need to create financial alternatives for rural youth, to educate communities about illegal practices, and to increase productivity in the fields.

But what was not discussed by speakers as a solution to child labor was to substantially raise the price farmers and workers are paid for their work.

Reflecting on the conference, speaker Professor Alfred Babo, an Associate Professor of Anthropology and Sociology at the University of Bouaké, commented.  … Read the rest