Chocolate is processed from cocoa pods. About two-thirds to three-quarters of the worlds cocoa comes from West Africa and since 2001, world attention has focused on Ghana and the Cote d’Ivoire as two cocoa producing countries that employ large numbers of child laborers to harvest cocoa. The chocolate industry is a $50-billion industry with billions of consumers. West African cocoa is sold to commodities brokers and mingled with cocoa from other sources. Despite the efforts of the chocolate industry, child labor advocates, and the West African governments, many chocolate products consumed in the U.S. and Europe are—or could be—the products of child labor.

Global Civil Society Statement on Child Labour in Cocoa, June 12th, 2021

Today, June 12th, is the International Day against Child Labour. On this day, as a large group of civil society organisations working on human rights in the cocoa sector across the world, we urgently call on chocolate & cocoa companies and governments to start living up to decades-old promises. The cocoa sector must come with ambitious plans to develop transparent and accountable solutions for current and future generations of children in cocoa communities.

This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the chocolate industry’s promise to end child labour in the cocoa sector of Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, a commitment they made under the 2001 Harkin-Engel Protocol and renewed again with the 2010 Framework of Action. Furthermore, it is the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour.

This year should have been a landmark in the fight against child labour in cocoa. Instead, the cocoa sector as a whole has been conspicuously quiet on this topic.

Child labour is still a reality on West African cocoa farms, and there is strong evidence that forced labour continues in the sector as well. Recent reports – such as Ghana’s GLSS 7 survey and the study of the University of Chicago commissioned by the United States government – show that close to 1.5 million children are engaged in hazardous or age-inappropriate work on cocoa farms in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire. The vast majority of these child labourers are exposed to the worst forms of child labour, such as carrying heavy loads, working with dangerous tools, and increasing exposure to harmful agrochemicals.

After two decades of rhetoric, voluntary initiatives, and pilot projects, it is clearer than ever that ambitious, sector-wide action is needed, coupled with binding regulations, to address both child labour and the poverty that lies at its root.

These solutions must include regulations for mandatory human rights due diligence for companies operating in all major cocoa consuming countries, including avenues for legal remedy in those companies’ home countries. We note with interest the developments around regulations in the EU, although the announced delays are concerning. We also observe that the United States – the world’s number one cocoa consuming country – is particularly lagging in regulatory developments on this issue.

The industry, however, cannot use a lack of regulation as an excuse not to shoulder their own responsibility. As such, every chocolate and cocoa company should have a system in place that monitors and remediates child labour in all of their value chains with a child labour risk. The impact of these systems must be communicated publicly and transparently in a way that enables meaningful participation and access to remedy for workers and their representatives.

In parallel, effective partnerships between producer and consumer countries are needed to work on the necessary enabling environment. These must be developed in a much more inclusive manner than previous attempts, bringing in civil society organisations, independent trade unions, local communities, and farmer representatives. Adequate resources must be provided to enable these local actors to participate as equals in the development and implementation of solutions.

Child labour can only be effectively tackled if its root causes are also adequately addressed. As such, the cocoa sector must ensure that child labour approaches are deeply embedded into realistic and ambitious strategies to achieve a living income for all cocoa households. Such strategies must include the payment of fair and just remuneration at the farm gate; prices need to be sufficient to provide a living income. There are clear calculations available for Living Income Reference Prices, which are not even close to being met.

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For Love of Chocolate…On World Chocolate Day, We Look at the Human Cost Behind 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.

A 13-year-old cocoa worker in West Africa. [From the Robin Romano Archives of the University of Connecticut]/

A 13-year-old cocoa worker in West Africa. [From the Robin Romano Archives of the University of Connecticut]/

Exploitation 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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10 Facts About the Latest Research on Child Labor in West African Cocoa Growing Areas from Tulane University:

[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.]

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. The number of children working in cocoa production fell slightly in Ghana.
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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