A Step Towards Combatting Child Labor in Cocoa

Submitted by ctate on September 23, 2019

The Ivory Coast and Ghana are the top producers of cocoa, globally. Cocoa farms in both countries are plagued by child labor, with an estimated two million children working in cocoa fields. These are not children helping on the family farm part-time. These are children who are working full time, day after day, in the fields. Some of them are doing dangerous work, and some are trafficked from other countries and are forced to work for little or no money. 

Despite numerous commitments from US corporations over the past 20 years, little progress has been made in addressing child labor in the cocoa sector, meaning that child labor is still being used (and profited off of) to make many of the chocolate brands that Americans regularly buy like Godiva, Hershey, Nestle, and Mars. Though, not all companies are the same, some have made progress, others (like Godiva) have made very little progress. Take a look at our scorecard to see how corporations hold up!

But, while corporate efforts have resulted in little improvement, the Ivory Coast and Ghana have recently taken one step towards improving the sector. Both governments have announced that they will raise the floor price for cocoa farmers and levy an extra fee to cocoa buyers. This move will raise the price of cocoa by $400 per ton. While this is a welcome and important move, unfortunately more needs to be done to truly eliminate child labor and poverty in the cocoa sector. Compensation to farmers still remains well below a living income. The government policies will create a minimum compensation to farmers of $1,820 per ton. But research from Fair Trade International indicates that a living income is closer to $2,668 per ton for Côte d’Ivoire, and $2,301 per ton for Ghana, and those estimates may still be on the low end.

The VOICE Network, of which Green America is a member, is a coalition of civil society organizations and trade unions, working to address blind spots and underrepresented issues in the cocoa value chain from consumer to farmer. Earlier this month, the VOICE Network published a brief analyzing both the floor price adjustment and other necessary steps in order to make cocoa a more sustainable industry. Some of the necessary changes laid out in the paper include:

  • an even higher floor price, as the current increase is still too low for farmers to make a living income;
  • ensuring that the money goes to farmers, rather than being subsumed by an intermediary;
  • developing reforms that provide protections for both farmers and the forests, so that further deforestation does not occur;
  • address human rights and child labor together, through women’s economic empowerment, access to education, providing proper documentation to individuals, such as birth certifications, and community-based development;
  • and the need for more countries to make similar commitments, such as other cocoa producing nations like Indonesia, Brazil, Ecuador, Nigeria, and Cameroon. 

To see the rest of the recommendations, check out the VOICE Network’s paper here. Several corporations issued statements following the price floor increase announcement, Green America’s ally and VOICE Network member, Mighty Earth, compiled the responses here.

Interestingly, Godiva, which Green America has an active campaign against, stated that “GODIVA supports any efforts to lift cocoa growing communities in the Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana out of poverty, and protect the future of cocoa farming and farmers.” This is great news! But let’s see if they will put their money where their mouth is… Something that would support these efforts would be for Godiva to shared who certifies its cocoa; share any plans, progress, or metrics about the amount of certified cocoa in its supply chain; and to publicly announced any programs that go beyond certification and better support farmers.

Without this information, you and other consumers have no way of knowing if Godiva is actually doing anything substantive to help address child labor and improve the conditions for cocoa farmers. As of now, all we are able to discern is that Godiva is behind a number of its peers and has a good public relations team… If you haven’t already, call on Godiva to do more and provide  greater transparency!

When purchasing chocolate, one of the best ways to support cocoa farmers and encourage corporations to take action against child labor, is to buy chocolate from companies that are trying to reshape the way cocoa is purchased, like Divine, Alter Eco, Equal Exchange, Endangered Species, Shaman, or Theo Chocolate – all of which have received an A rating on our scorecard.

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