Addressing Child Labour and Farmer Poverty

Child labour remains a prevalent problem in the cocoa industry and it is still regarded as a serious risk for the foreseeable future that calls for collective efforts to be responsibly managed. Cocoa farmers and their families face challenges due to low prices that push them into dependence on child labour. At least 2 million children in Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana are denied their childhoods as they work in extremely hazardous conditions or working at the expense of going to school. The constant increase in demand for cocoa increases dependence on child labour in Cote d’Ivoire.

Overreliance on child labour should not be taken to mean that cocoa farmers lack interest in their children’s bright future. Instead, it often depicts the people’s means of survival as a result of low cocoa prices. Poverty is still a big factor among cocoa farmers who hardly make enough to support their business. With low cocoa prices and yields, farmers cannot hire adult labourers hence resorting to child labour as the only alternative. Increased child labour in Cote d’Ivoire is also blamed on limited access to education. The country experiences schools and teachers’ shortage and where there are schools, many families cannot afford the required school-related expenses.  Besides, existence of laws that prohibit child labor in Cote d’Ivoire and other West Africa countries has not fully addressed the prevalence of child labour due to poor law enforcement.

At ICS SP, we are happy to be part of TRECC, an initiative of the Jacobs FoundationBernard van Leer FoundationUBS Foundation and the government of the Ivory Coast, in cooperation with chocolate companies that yearn for realization of the Sustainable Development Goal of terminating child labour. As part of the organizations that were chosen to implement their knowledge and expertise in child labour reduction, we focus our attention on Skilful Parenting and Child Protection as viable approaches to ending child labour in the leading Cocoa growing country. Our Skilful parenting program is effective in strengthening cocoa farmers since it enhances their knowledge on child development and their roles as parents. We are happy to have scaled up our service delivery and hired Ivorian members of staff to form a local ICS-team to help implement our methods in the local field.

We were also happy to have actively participated in the past Chocovision conference where partners in cocoa industry met to discuss sustainable solutions in ending farmer poverty and promoting innovative child development solutions.  Our Director Beatrice Ogutu was among members of the panel on tackling the complex issues of farmer poverty and the need for systematic change. In her presentation, the Director emphasized on the importance of farmers' families stating that the move to eliminate child labour in the cocoa growing countries all starts with a look into the well-being of farmer’s families.